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John Reitman

By John Reitman

BIGGA takes aim at tackling mental health issues

If there has been one positive come out of the pandemic era, it has been the acknowledgment that a lot of people are suffering from mental health issues. It does not mean we all are crazy, but with more to do and less time and resources in which to do it all, it stands to reason that people of all backgrounds are dealing with a lot of stress that is affecting their mental health.

The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association is doing something about the challenges associated with mental health and has launched a campaign to combat the rise of mental health struggles in the golf green industry.

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BIGGA has pledged to create 100 mental health first aiders during 2023, who will receive training that will give them the skills to support golf greenkeepers and other clubhouse staff through any difficulties they may be experiencing.

Poor mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing society today. According to BIGGA, 75% of deaths among men age 50 and under are attributed to suicide, making it the most common cause of death in that age bracket. The greenkeeping industry itself has been rocked by several tragic losses in recent years and in 2021 BIGGA launched a survey that revealed 80% of greenkeepers were concerned about the mental health of a colleague.

75% of deaths among men age 50 and under are attributed to suicide, making it the most common cause of death in that age bracket...

Working environments and money concerns are major causes of stress and mental health problems and BIGGA is working alongside golf's governing bodies to improve governance and working practices at golf clubs. Stronger, more positive and respectful working environments should help relieve some of the undue pressures placed upon staff at present.

To further support those working in the golf industry, BIGGA has launched its campaign to train 100 mental health first aiders across the United Kingdom. The training course provides the first aiders with knowledge to help them recognize signs that a colleague or friend may be experiencing difficulties and empowers them to direct others towards available help.

The cost of the course is being met by BIGGA with support from The R&A, and participants will receive a certificate from Mental Health England. In addition, participants will receive three years' ongoing training and support from Mental Health England.

The opportunity to get involved is open to BIGGA members, including greenkeepers and trade representatives who spend much of their time on the road, visiting greenkeeping teams.

The first course will be held in February at Edgbaston Golf Club and further events will be hosted around the country, helping to build a national network of mental health first aiders.

The campaign is being led by BIGGA's Steve Dudley-Brown, himself a former greenkeeper and course manager with 25 years' experience in the industry.

"During my career as a greenkeeper, I experienced several of my colleagues having mental health difficulties,” Dudley-Brown. "It's a scary situation knowing that you have someone in front of you and they are upset and afraid. You want to try and support them the best you can. This training course will give people the ability to understand a little more about what the person is going through and point them in the right direction for help.”

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