Veteran With A Mental Illness, Gains Motorsport Sponsorship
As a company, we at 360Wellbeing are proud to be sponsoring Veteran and Karting Racing Driver, Simon Pendlebury of SPAR Motorsport, as he looks to win the ELK Championship for a second year in a row. We have taken this a stage further and sponsored him in the forthcoming British 24hr Kart Race, that takes place over 03rd & 04th August from 1200hrs, where he stands a good chance of gaining some silverware – You can watch this race live through YouTube via this link – British 24hr Kart Race .
But why would a Wellbeing company be sponsoring a Karting Racing Driver, at all?
Well Simon is an Army Veteran and has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, which is very close to our hearts as I too am a Veteran with mental illnesses in: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and Depression. This isn’t purely about emotive feelings though, it is also about gaining a better understanding of how the use of Motorsport can be for many a channel for negativity, focusing the mind and act as a means of therapy.
We are also currently researching Mental Health in Motorsport as a whole, where we seek to understand how the Motorsport Industry itself, supports the mental wellbeing of all the employees, from Janitors to Drivers, and whether Stigma, Discrimination and Prejudice exists within the industry.
Recently I met up with Simon and asked him a few questions, which you can read below, followed by a really exciting announcement of how all this is being brought together for the good and benefit of other Veterans AND the Partners of service Personnel, who all too often get left out;
Hi Simon, Why did you leave the army?
I was medically discharged in April 2009 following a severe knee injury caused through playing sport.
What caused your PTSD?
The Army was all I ever wanted from life and being told I had to leave, was a strike to my heart and head that would affect me for the rest of my life. My issues began shortly after my discharge, with a severe case of depression that cut me off from the world for a number of months. Years passed with, unbeknown to me, several occasions of mood changes, out of character actions and decisions and multiple job changes along with a large accruement of debt. 2013 saw the birth of my first son and the first realisation that something just wasn’t right within my own head, my then partner sought medical advice, following which a consultancy was made with a mental health specialist. After a couple of sessions, they came to the conclusion that the huge impact from my military discharge had developed into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Why did you start Motorsport?
In 2015 I sought a hobby, to try and combat my busy mind during down time and a local kart track had an offer that I could afford, so I went to have a go in their karts. Fast forward 12 months and following the tragic accident of a young driver at a major racing event, A circuit not so far away had advertised via social media about a charity event they were holding for the driver. I contacted a few friends and we put together a team to compete. Whilst at the event I met a group of Veterans that used racing to combat the issues they had suffered during operations whilst in active service and they invited me to compete with them over several events. I was hooked.
What would you say it is about Motorsport that aids your PTSD?
I started noticing that being active within motorsport, my mind began to be more focused, I was retaining information, I wasn’t as uncomfortable in some situations as I had been previously. The biggest change for me was realising that when I put my crash helmet on, nothing else mattered, the world around me becomes clear, I stop worrying, I’m calm, I’m focused and above all else I feel human again.
How is your overall mental wellbeing?
Day to day my mental health is a, number out of a hat scenario, in fact throughout the day my moods can change, I lose focus easily, I can often panic whilst doing the slightest thing and certain situations can become overwhelming.
What have you been up to this year?
So this year I am competing for the 2nd time in the Elk Motorsport Sprint Championship of which I am currently winning my weight class and the overall title on points. I also hope to guest race in a few rounds of the British ProKart Endurance Championship, one of which is the major British 24hr race held at Teeside. For this event I will be competing alongside Burton racing.
Could you provide us with a short look ahead to plans for next year.
2020 will be my most active year to date as I join forces with Green Spirit Racing to complete a full season in the British ProKart Endurance Championship. I will also be working alongside Nick Wilson from 360 Wellbeing and First Step Forward CIC with a Not for Profit organisation we created called Racing Minds CIC. Through this we aim to develop a Karting Championship solely for Military Veterans and Partners of service personnel, to aid with their own mental health issues.
Simon Pendlebury – Veteran, Karting Racing Driver and Director Racing Minds CIC.
Nick Wilson – Veteran, Co-Founder 360Wellbeing and Director Racing Minds CIC
I really appreciate Simon being so open and candid with his answers there and as he mentioned at the end, the short-term goal, is for myself and Simon to launch a new CIC called Racing Minds, that will be an integral part of First Steps Forward CIC, which will provide themed Mental Health workshops combined with an introduction to the benefits of being involved with Motorsport. We then have a really exciting, long-term goal, dependant on funding and sponsorship, of launching the UK’s very first national “Veteran Karting Championship”, after all Lewis Hamilton, amongst many other greats, began his racing career in Karting.
Our aim though, would be to empower over 225 Veterans and Partners of military personnel each year, to better manage their own symptoms and day to day lives, whilst also enhancing their knowledge of mental health, improving social lives, reducing isolation and re-introducing them to the benefits of being a part of something, of belonging, changing existing to living!