Team BRIT is raising awareness of how motorsport can help in the rehabilitation of injured veterans, and those suffering with PTSD or depression.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, held from today, Monday 8th May, they will be sharing the story of their findings to date and the experiences of their team of injured veterans across social media.
The team is a branch of the charity KartForce, set up to inspire, challenge and motivate injured ex-troops through motorsport. Military veterans are invited to take part in karting events across the country and some are selected to join Team BRIT –a competitive racing team.
They have seen firsthand the positive effects that motor racing can have on those suffering from mental health conditions as a result of their time in the military, and hope that this may inspire others with similar conditions to consider this type of sport.
One of Team BRIT’s drivers, Warren McKinlay from Braintree, suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a motorcycle accident whilst serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. It resulted in him being diagnosed with Cotard’s Syndrome – a condition which led him to believe he was dead and living in purgatory. After long-term support from medical experts and his family, he has made a good recovery but still suffers with erratic mood swings and depression. He believes that competitive racing provides an escape from these effects.
Warren said, “When I’m driving, all the other challenges I face and the ‘noise’ that goes on in my head goes away. It’s just me, the car and the track and it provides an escape like nothing else.
“I think the focus, the adrenaline rush, and the camaraderie of the team all contribute to this effect, I’d encourage anyone suffering with any mental health condition to consider this kind of sport to see if it could also help them.”
The team is supporting a clinical study into the effects of motorsport on injured veterans and drivers recently took part in the first in a series of interviews to take place over the next three years.
In 2014 Dr Nigel Hunt, an Associated Professor in the School of Medicine at Nottingham University carried out a Clinical Study into the effects of karting on armed forces veterans. He spent time interviewing 15 drivers, including professional racers Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine along with Kartforce and Team BRIT drivers. He concluded that karting had contributed significantly to their recovery.
Dr Hunt found benefits to include the sense of comradeship in karting which is similar to that of the armed forces, the adrenaline buzz, the focus, the competitiveness and the discipline; all qualities that veterans described that an armed forces experience provided; and that they had lost since being injured. Drivers also reported that karting enabled them to compete on equal terms with able bodied racers.
Dr Hunt is now carrying out a further 3-year PhD study into the subject and his student, Danai Serfioti, a PhD researcher in Applied Psychology at The University of Nottingham, spent time with Team BRIT drivers Andy Searle, Jimmy Hill, Warren McKinlay and Tony Williams as well as KartForce drivers at a recent rack day.
Team Founder Dave Player said: “Mental Health Awareness Week provides an opportunity for us to raise awareness of our belief and our findings that motorsport can be hugely powerful in supporting injured veterans.
“KartForce is the only Forces motorsport organization to have undertaken a clinical study of this nature and we are firm in the belief that work such as this will continue to help gain support and respect for the positive effects motorsport can bring to our veterans and others suffering with depression or PTSD.
“It’s such a unique sport that can provide a focus and an adrenaline rush like no other and KartForce looks to show veterans and others that they can participate, even with disabilities. We look forward to further supporting Nigel and Danai in their studies and to hearing about their findings.”
Team BRIT aims to be the first ever all-disabled team to enter Le Mans in 2020.