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Report released with highlights and key outcomes from the recent Student Veterinary Wellbeing Discussion Forum

Today (19 January) the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and VN Futures have released a report which details the key discussions from their recent Student Veterinary Nurse (SVN) Wellbeing Discussion Forum and what next steps the profession needs to take to improve the mental wellbeing of student and recently qualified vet nurses.

The event was organised following the results of an MMI survey of 650 student veterinary nurses, recently qualified veterinary nurses and clinical coaches which revealed that the overwhelming majority of the people surveyed felt that bullying and incivility were serious problems in the profession. The Discussion Forum’s programme was structured around the survey results, which revealed four key areas that were impacting the mental wellbeing of the profession. These four key areas were:

  • Incivility and bullying – The MMI survey results revealed that 96% of respondents felt like incivility and bullying were a problem within the vet nursing profession. The survey also indicated that many of the accounts of bullying were instances of people in senior positions acting poorly towards people in more junior roles.
  • Juggling demands – Many people said the demands of their work were affecting their wellbeing, and some revealed they didn’t even have time to eat or use the toilet when they were at work. 81% said that they found their job stressful.
  • Disability and chronic illness – One in three respondents identified as having a disability or chronic illness and one in five identified as neurodiverse. The survey revealed that respondents with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses were often made to feel like a burden, especially when requesting to shield during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Awareness, recognition and pride – 70% of respondents said that they felt they had chosen the right career and that they were passionate about looking after the animals committed to their care. However, there were recurring issues with the role that came through in the results of the survey, including low pay and lack of respect from the public and vets.

The Discussion Forum was attended by people from across all areas of veterinary nursing, including current students, clinical coaches, recently graduated vet nurses and employers. Throughout the day, attendees heard talks from:

  • Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, who confirmed that vet nursing and student mental wellbeing would be crucial streams in the MMI 2022 – 2027 strategy.
  • Dr Claire Hodgson MRCVS, co-founder of the British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support (BVCIS) organisation, and Alexandra Taylor RVN, current President of the BVNA, who outlined the challenges people with disabilities and chronic illnesses face and what the veterinary profession can do to support their staff.
  • Dr Simon Fleming, an NHS Trauma and Orthopaedic Registrar, explained the impact that bullying can have on the person being bullied and those who witness it. He also outlined what an effective intervention looks like and what the steps taken before formal disciplinary action should be.
  • Jane Davidson, RVN, discussed how to set healthy boundaries and the extent that these, and time management practises, can be applied in a vet nursing role.
  • Jill Macdonald, RVN and VN Futures Lead and Dr Laura Woodward MRCVS, a veterinary surgeon and psychotherapeutic counsellor, explored what pride means and how employers and the wider profession can encourage pride in vet nursing.

Attendees were then invited to join breakout discussion sessions, where they had opportunities to openly discuss their experiences and how they felt the profession could improve the mental wellbeing of vet nurses. The key outcomes from those discussions were:

  • More needed to be done to make it clear that the MMI is for the whole veterinary profession, not just vet surgeons.
  • There needed to be additional resources and training to educate employers and the wider veterinary professions about the legal rights for people with a chronic illness and/or disability in the workplace and their expectations in terms of reasonable adjustments.
  • Training needed to be given to help people understand how to address bullying in the workplace and that this should be given as early as their initial veterinary training.
  • Some students said they would not feel comfortable challenging a senior member of staff and said that they would benefit from having training in how to address the behaviour of someone in a senior position.
  • There needed to be a change in the culture around taking breaks and that staff should be actively encouraged to switch off during their break times.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said; “We’re really pleased that so many people attended our Wellbeing Forum and engaged with the discussion sessions. Throughout the discussions, some people shared difficult and personal experiences and we want to thank everyone for being so open and for being respectful to those who shared their stories. Student and veterinary nurse wellbeing will be key components of the 2022- 2027 MMI strategy, which we will be launching this spring. The forum discussions, survey results and feedback from the student vet nursing community will be incorporated into the survey and guide the resources, research and support we work on to help improve the mental wellbeing of the profession.”

Jill Macdonald, VN Futures Project Lead commented: “I want to thank all the attendees and speakers who gave up their time so they could join us at the Discussion Forum to share their expertise and lived experience. It was incredibly helpful to get multiple perspectives throughout the day on these issues. A key component of the VN Futures Project is safeguarding the future of the veterinary nursing profession and ensuring that vet nurses have fulfilling careers with opportunities for progression. The feedback we received during the Forum’s discussion sessions and the survey will help us form the actions we take to help improve the profession for current and future vet nurses, through MMI, the VN Futures project and the RCVS’s work with the VN community.”

The full report of the Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum can be found here www.vetmindmatters.org/SVN-report/

Lacey Pitcher

MMI warmly welcomes our newest team member

We’re delighted to introduce you to the newest member of the Mind Matters Initiative team, Lacey Pitcher. Lacey joins us as our Outreach and Engagement Senior Officer and will be involved with many of our ambitious and exciting projects for the year, including helping to create a new MMI training programme and leading on our student outreach and engagement.

Lacey grew up in a small town in South Wales surrounded by animals. Despite her initial plans to study Law, she decided to pursue a career in veterinary nursing. She started out as a kennel hand and worked her way up via three different nursing colleges and became a Registered Veterinary Nurse, in spite of chronic health challenges.

Lacey has worked in a variety of settings including emergency care and ICU, multidisciplinary referral, GP and charity practice and through these roles has built an extensive network within the veterinary community. Throughout her career, Lacey has explored the importance of connection and mental wellness and fulfilled a career goal by joining BVNA council in 2020.

Lacey is passionate about learning and personal growth, having launched her own wellbeing initiative a couple of years ago. The scheme, Veterinary Pay It Forward (VPIF) aims to spread kindness across the profession by asking people to nominate someone to receive an anonymously distributed care package as a way of showing their appreciation. The person who receives a package is then also encouraged to ‘pay the kindness forward’ by organising with VPIF for someone else to get care package. These can be anything from craft kits to candles – as long as it makes the recipient of the package smile.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “We are delighted to have Lacey join the team. The MMI’s activities and upcoming projects will benefit immensely from her veterinary nursing expertise and her passion for supporting the profession’s wellbeing. One of our key strategy areas is to focus on improving the mental wellbeing of the veterinary nursing profession, and having Lacey’s insight into the needs of the profession and links with VNs will be a huge asset as we develop our mental health training and support for vet nurses.”

Lacey lives in the Cotswolds and enjoys time in the countryside in-between working on numerous projects. Lacey is passionate about widening participation in the veterinary profession and exploring career versatility, which are key aims for some of the RCVS’s and MMI’s projects. If you’re attending a freshers fair this year you’ll likely see Lacey on the MMI stand, so make sure to pay her a visit and find out more about how you can get involved with our work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary team.

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Researchers invited to apply for £20,000 grant to fund mental health research project

The Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Sarah Brown Research Grant has today (17 January) opened up its applications for 2022’s funding. Awarded once a year since 2019, the £20,000 grant has already funded four projects that carried out innovative research into a range of mental health areas including neurodiversity, wellbeing amongst isolated farm vets, the impact of racism on mental health, and how moral injury can impact wellbeing. The latter two projects were both awarded the grant in 2020, after the judges found it impossible to pick between the two very impressive applications.

The grant was set up in memory of vet, RCVS Council member and mental health campaigner Sarah Brown and is an opportunity for mental health researchers at any stage of their career to apply for research funding. Applications on any area of veterinary mental health are welcome. However, particular interest will be shown to research projects that cover the MMI’s key areas of focus for their 2022 – 2027 strategy which include:

  • Students and new graduates
  • The veterinary nursing profession
  • Equality, diversity, inclusion, civility
  • Beyond mental health awareness
  • Leadership

As well as receiving funding for their research, previous winners have had opportunities to present their findings at conferences, including the MMI Symposium, and received support from the MMI and the RCVS to help promote their study and recruit volunteers.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager said: “We’re delighted to launch the Sarah Brown Research Grant funding applications for 2022. The grant is now in its fourth year and has been awarded in previous years to some incredible research projects, which have been led by passionate and talented researchers.

“I would encourage anyone with a mental health research idea, including students and those who are just starting out in their research careers to apply for the funding, as we will be judging applications based on their quality, originality and relevance to the profession rather than how much research experience the applicants have. Applications will be anonymised, so the judging panel won’t be able to see the applicant’s affiliations, prior publications or professional seniority.”

Over the coming weeks, MMI will be putting together and sharing resources to help applicants put together their proposals. These will include online guides, webinars and events on best practice, ethics and methodology in mental health research.

Anyone who would like to apply for the 2022 Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant will need to send a research proposal of no more than two pages to Lisa Quigley on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk by 5pm on Friday 20 May 2022. There is more information here about the Sarah Brown Research Grant, how to apply and support with putting together an application.

All applications will ideally include existing literature and background, hypothesis (or research questions for qualitative proposals), methods, analysis, proposed timeline, budget allocation, ethical considerations and dissemination. The winning application will be announced the week commencing 13 June and formally awarded at the RCVS Honours & Awards ceremony on Friday 8 July.

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MMI to host two webinars at upcoming Webinar Vet Virtual Congress

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) are hosting two webinar sessions on mental health and wellbeing at the 10th Webinar Vet Virtual Congress 2022 on 17 January. Taking place from 17 – 22 January 2022, the virtual event is the world’s largest online veterinary conference, and for the first time, all sessions are completely free to attend.

For this year’s congress, MMI has two speakers in the conference programme, who will present talks on vital areas of mental health and wellbeing followed by a brief Q&A. The times and details of the two MMI sessions are:

  • Dr Claire Gillvray – Understanding the mind body link and what we can learn from it – Monday 17 January, 7 to 8pm. Claire is a trained Psychiatrist and General Practitioner and has worked in the NHS and in Private Practice for over 20 years. She is also a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist and has an interest in the mental health of those within the veterinary profession. In her talk, she will outline the latest research into how we can support our mental health through exercise, diet, mindfulness, breathwork, talking therapies and anti-depressants.
  • Dr Catriona Mellor – Living with the climate Crisis: What do we need to know about eco anxiety, nature, wellbeing and resilience – Monday 17 January, 8 to 9pm. Catriona is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with an interest in the mental health impacts of the eco-crisis on children and young people as well as what nature-based practices and insights can add to mental health care. Her talk will cover some of the difficult thoughts and feelings associated with living at a time of climate and nature crisis, as well as what we can do for ourselves and each other to feel more resilient and optimistic.

As well as MMI, the conference also has speakers from the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Nationwide Laboratories and Investors in the Environment, who will be giving talks on areas including sustainability, reducing waste and hypercalcaemia in dogs and cats. Everyone who attends a session at the conference will also be able to download a certificate of completion, which can be used to count towards their CPD target for the year.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager said: “We are really pleased to be providing two speakers to give talks on the first day of the Webinar Vet conference on two very important and timely issues. I want to thank our speakers for sharing their expertise with the profession. I also want to thank the Webinar Vet Virtual Congress for recognising the challenging period that the veterinary professions have had and making this year’s sessions free to attend. I would encourage as many people as possible to register for the congress and seize the opportunity to hear from leading voices in mental wellbeing, as well as other key speakers in the veterinary sector.”

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MMI and BVNA to collaborate on upcoming webinar for Anti-Bullying Week 2021

The Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has collaborated with the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) to put together an upcoming webinar, taking place during Anti-Bullying Week 2021, about tackling incivility and bullying in the veterinary workplace.

The one-hour webinar will take place on Thursday 18 November at 7.30 PM and is entitled, ‘Why behaviour matters: what VNs/SVNs can do when faced with incivility & bullying’ where attendees can hear from speakers who are experienced at supporting people affected by bullying in the workplace.

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week 2021 is taking place between Monday 15 to Friday 19 November and aims to raise awareness of bullying and the ways that people can address and respond to bullies. Bullying can have a devastating impact on someone’s life and it is something that affects adults as well as school children. The webinar has been jointly organised following a recent MMI survey of student veterinary nurses, recently graduated veterinary nurses and clinical coaches where 96% of respondents said that they felt bullying was a serious problem in the professions.

During the webinar, Helen Silver-MacMahon, Senior Trainer at VetLed, and Nicky Ackerley from the BVNA Members Advisory Service will talk attendees through the extent of bullying in the veterinary profession, how VNs can find sources of support if they are being bullied and what techniques people can use in difficult situations to look after their wellbeing. After the webinar, MMI and BVNA will continue to collaborate on anti-bullying activities with a new training programme launching in 2022 for VNs and SVNs.

MMI recently held their Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Forum (3 November 2021), where people from across the veterinary nursing profession heard from a wide range of experts and took part in breakout discussions about numerous wellbeing areas, including bullying and incivility. A report of the event’s outcomes will be published in the near future, along with MMI’s new five-year strategy, which will have veterinary and student veterinary nurse wellbeing as a priority area.  

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “Bullying has no place in the veterinary professions. Each one of us has a role to play in calling out and addressing this unacceptable behaviour wherever it occurs. Our upcoming webinar is just the start of what I am sure will be an extremely fulfilling and positive collaboration with BVNA, who are as determined to address bullying in the workplace as we are. I would encourage everyone who has been affected by workplace bullying or wants to find out how to become a better ally to their colleagues who have experienced it in practice to attend our upcoming webinar and look out for further information on the training in the new year.”

Alex Taylor, President of the BVNA, said: “Bullying and incivility are too commonplace in the veterinary profession, which is why more awareness and action needs to be taken to tackle these issues. The BVNA’s collaboration with the RCVS MMI team and the BVNA members’ advisory service will help support those affected by bullying and provide guidance on where to look for support, as well as what action they can take if they feel they are being bullied or experience incivility in the workplace. I am really pleased that this serious, but important issue is at last being talked about, and I have no doubt that the support and advice given during Anti-Bullying Week and next year’s training sessions will be of great benefit to the veterinary nursing profession.”

Anyone interested in attending the upcoming webinar can register via our events page.

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Veterinary professionals are invited to gather round for our upcoming Mind Matters Campfire Chats

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative is continuing its series of ‘Campfire Chats’ this autumn and winter, providing members of the professions with the opportunity to take part in informal discussions about some of the crucial issues affecting veterinary health and wellbeing.

The upcoming sessions are as follows:

  • Thursday 28 October 2021 at 7pm – Managing Mental Health and Menopause: with studies consistently showing that around 80% of those who go through the menopause experience negative physical and mental health effects, with around 30% of these being moderate-to-severe, this discussion will be an open and honest conversation about menopause, mental health and the professions. The panel comprises: Liz Barton, a SPVS board member and co-founder of WellVet and the Vet Mums Facebook group; RCVS Junior Vice-President Melissa Donald who last year wrote a blog dealing with some of the issues and taboos around menopause; and Nikki Ruedisueli, a veterinary nurse educator who is currently Head of Learning & Development at the BVNA.
  • Wednesday 17 November 2021 at 7pm – Combatting Climate Change Anxiety: it has become increasingly recognised that the physical dangers posed by the climate crisis is also having an impact on mental health, and so this session will focus on ways in which the professions can harness hope through positive action on climate and their connections with nature. The panel comprises: David Black, the Managing Director of the Paragon Veterinary Group and a Director of veterinary environmental group Vet Sustain; Alex Mullarkey, the founder of the Sustainable Vet Nurse Community and environmental campaigner; and Sue Stuart-Smith, a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and author of The Well Gardened Mind, a Sunday Times bestseller.
  • Monday 29 November 2021 at 7pm – Men’s Mental Health: with research from the Mental Health Foundation showing that, in England, around 1 in 8 men has a common mental health problem, this discussion will focus on overcoming barriers that may exist to men recognising and seeking help for mental health conditions. The panel comprises: James Russell, Senior Vice-President of the British Veterinary Association, and a Vetlife board member; James Glass, a vet who has had his own experiences of a severe depressive disorder and is now studying for an MSc in the psychology and neuroscience of mental health; and Calum McIntyre, a final year student at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School and President of the Association of Veterinary Students.
  • Monday 13 December 2021 at 7pm – Working Through Winter: working through winter can be heard and bring a whole host of other challenges to the veterinary professions, so this chat will consider how the season affects veterinary mental health and what can be done to overcome the winter blues. The panel comprises: Mark Tabachnik, an equine vet based in Cheshire who also works as a professional development coach; Claire Gillvray, a medical psychotherapist and general practitioner whose passion is helping people gain mental strength through exercise, meditation, yoga and therapy; and Kate Stephen, an experienced qualitative social scientist and project manager.

Angharad Belcher, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “After our very successful first run of the Mind Matters Campfire Chats, we have a number of new session topics, which were requested by delegates earlier this year. As always, we will continue to host experts and those with lived experience at each Campfire Chat.”

As with the previous events, the Campfire Chats aren’t about being lectured at for an hour but are an opportunity to hear from those with lived experience, expertise and also for our audience to share their experiences, worries or life hacks. So please make sure to grab a mug of your favourite hot drink and join us.”

All the events are free, and members of the professions can sign up via the Mind Matters website at: www.vetmindmatters.org/events/ 

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Veterinary nursing students and recently qualified VNs invited to attend and take part in student mental wellbeing discussion forum

Veterinary nursing students and recently qualified VNs invited to attend and take part in student mental wellbeing discussion forum

On 3 November 2021, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will host a virtual Student Veterinary Nursing Wellbeing Discussion Forum, which student VNs, recently qualified RVNs and clinical coaches are encouraged to attend.

The event has been created following the results of a recent MMI survey of 650 newly qualified and student VNs, which found that bullying, incivility, stress and lack of mental health support were cited as issues that respondents had either witnessed or been affected by.

The event will take place on Zoom from 10:00am – 3:15pm and will offer the opportunity to discuss the key challenges highlighted in the survey responses and to explore the ways in which they can be addressed.

Key discussion topics will be opened by a short presentation offered by an experienced speaker. Attendants will then move into small discussion groups where they’ll be free to share their thoughts, experiences and ideas. The topics that will be discussed throughout the day are:

  • The Mind Matters Initiative and its roles
  • Incivility and Bullying – recognition and becoming an ally
  • Juggling Demands – balancing study, work, and personal life
  • Raising Awareness and Encouraging Pride in the Veterinary Nursing Profession
  • Disability and Chronic Illness – creating inclusive environments

Angharad Belcher, RCVS Director for Advancement of the Professions and Mind Matters Director, said: “Holding the Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum is one of the first steps in talking through the survey findings and working collaboratively with the veterinary nursing profession to discuss potential solutions and actions we can take.

“Having a range of voices and experiences present throughout the day will be key to generating constructive and forward-thinking discussions. If you have an experience that you want to share or ideas for how the profession could better support the wellbeing of veterinary nurses, then I would encourage you to register for and attend the forum.”

Jill Macdonald RVN, VN Futures Project Coordinator, said: “We have put together a varied and engaging programme for the Forum, which we are sure will provoke thoughtful discussions throughout the day. As part of the programme, we have Angharad Belcher and Lisa Quigley from the Mind Matters Initiative giving an overview of MMI and the results of their recent survey, Dr Claire Hodgson MRCVS, Alexandra Taylor RVN and Jane Davidson RVN leading the session on disability and chronic illness, Simon Flemming, a Trauma and Orthopaedic registrar, who will be heading a talk on incivility and bullying and myself and Dr Laura Woodward MRCVS will lead a session on raising awareness and encouraging pride in the veterinary nursing profession. Jane Davidson RVN will also be taking the lead on another talk, where she’ll be discussing balancing study, work, and personal life.

“After each talk, there will be time to reflect on the topics in the facilitator-supported discussion groups, and we are very much looking forward to having the opportunity for student and registered veterinary nurses to help shape the future of wellbeing issues in their profession.”

Anyone interested in attending the Student Veterinary Nursing Wellbeing Discussion Forum can register on the Eventbrite page or email info@mindmatters.org to find out more information about the event.

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MMI focuses on inequality and mental health for World Mental Health Day

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters mental health initiative is announcing a new training collaboration on how to champion equality ahead of this year’s World Mental Health Day (Sunday 10 October 2021).

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, and considers how societal inequalities can feed into mental ill-health, the unequal provision of and access to mental health services and treatment, and how people with mental health conditions can face discrimination and injustice.

As part of the Mind Matters Initiative’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, it is today announcing a new ‘Championing Equality’ training course, for which it is collaborating with representatives from the British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS), the British Veterinary Chronic Illness Society (BVCIS), Vetlife, and the British Veterinary LGBTQ+ Society.

The course will run throughout 2022 with each of the above groups contributing to the development and delivery of the course, including providing case studies on how inequality, stigma and discrimination can impact mental health.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, commented: “On behalf of Mind Matters I’d like to thank these fantastic veterinary organisations for collaborating with us. They have been doing such vital work in the profession, including on the intersections of factors such as ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity and disability with mental health, and we can’t talk about mental health unless we also have conversations about inequality.

“This course will help those attending understand the structural causes of inequality and the impact this has on individuals, workplaces and wider society; understand the relationship between mental health and inequality; develop an awareness of rights and responsibilities under the Equality Act; be able to recognize and respond to stigma and discrimination; and become a champion for equality and inclusion within the professions.

“More details about the courses will be published in due course but anyone who has an interest in finding out more and registering in advance for the courses can contact me on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk.”

This week Lisa, along with Vetlife Helpline Manager and veterinary mental health researcher Rosie Allister, will also each be publishing blog posts which examine the inextricable links between mental health and equality. Rosie writes about how societal inequalities impact mental health, while Lisa writes about how people with mental illness can experience inequality, stigma and discrimination, and how this can be addressed, for example, through workplace adjustments. These will be posted here on the Mind Matters website and shared on social media.

World Mental Health Day’s focus on inequality also comes ahead of the formal publication of the joint BVEDS and Royal Veterinary College’s Race Together research which looked at the mental health impact of experiences of discrimination and racism on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) veterinary professionals. The research will be presented by principal researchers Victoria Crossley (RVC) and Navaratnam Partheeban (BVEDS) at the Mind Matters Initiative’s Research Symposium.

You can find out more about the Research Symposium and register in our events section.

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Preliminary findings from wellbeing survey of veterinary nursing profession revealed

A new survey of student veterinary nurses, recently graduated veterinary nurses and clinical coaches has revealed the prevalence of workplace stressors and unhealthy workplace culture issues across the profession, including concerns over the impact of widespread bullying and incivility within the veterinary workplace.

Carried out by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI), the survey of over 650 people revealed that 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that bullying and incivility was a serious problem in the profession.

Furthermore, nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents had personally experienced a mental health concern and only half had received professional support for their concern. Over eight in 10 (82%) said that they thought veterinary nursing was a stressful career.

The survey was conducted to address the current research gap in the mental wellbeing of those working across the veterinary nursing profession. Participants were asked questions on a range of mental wellbeing areas including the level and quality of support available in education and work settings, stress, discrimination and bullying in educational and work settings and coping strategies for stress and mental ill-health.

Some of the additional key findings from the survey were:

  • One in five (20%) respondents have witnessed or experienced discrimination in an educational setting and around one-third of respondents had witnessed or experienced discrimination in a practice setting
  • Less than one in five (18%) respondents said they believed that veterinary nursing is a well-respected profession
  • Just over half (51%) feel positive about their future in veterinary nursing

However, the survey suggested there was a good level of awareness within the profession about how to access mental health support, with three-quarters (75%) of respondents saying that they knew where to access support for mental health if they need it and almost three-quarters (70%) found their clinical coach supportive.

The full findings of the survey will be revealed at the upcoming MMI Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum, taking place on Wednesday 3 November. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss the key challenges highlighted in the survey and discuss how they think they can be addressed. The results will also be published at a session led by Jill McDonald, VN Futures Project Coordinator at BVNA Congress, taking place Saturday 2 October – Monday 4 October.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, commented: “A number of our survey findings are extremely concerning, particularly the high levels of bullying, incivility and discrimination reported by participants. We conducted the survey with the intention of finding out more about what systemic issues across workplace practices were impacting on the profession’s mental health. We want to thank everyone who took part and shared their experiences with us. There were some upsetting accounts shared with us about experiences of bullying and discrimination – no one should go through this at any point in their life, let alone at their place of work. Decisive action needs to be taken to tackle this and we will be using the findings of the survey to help form our 2022-2027 strategy and decide what resources and training we create for the profession. Supporting the wellbeing of veterinary nurses and student veterinary nurses is one of our key priorities, and will be part of all future MMI activities.”

“I would encourage as many veterinary nurses and student veterinary nurses as possible to attend the upcoming Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum and our session at BVNA to have your voice heard about what steps need to be taken to improve the mental wellbeing of the profession. We recognise that these results may bring some difficult emotions to the fore for many people, and we would encourage anyone who has experienced bullying or discrimination to seek help from an organisation such as Vetlife or the National Bullying Helpline. I would urge anyone who witnesses bullying or discrimination in the workplace to speak out, wherever it is safe to do so. This takes immense courage, but it is only by calling out this behaviour that it can begin to be addressed. We will be launching Active Bystander training in early 2022, to equip people with the confidence to call out unacceptable behaviour, and the skills to proactively support colleagues who have been targeted.”

Matthew Rendle, Chair of the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council, added: “As a veterinary nurse some of these results were a difficult read and I would like to thank those student vet nurses and newly qualified vet nurses who came forward with great honesty and bravery with their views and experiences, as it couldn’t have been easy.

“We take these matters very seriously and opening up the conversation is an important first step. I hope that, following these results, we can take look at things such as strengthening reporting mechanisms for bullying and discrimination and encouraging better workplace practices to mitigate against these incidents.

“While it’s easy to focus on the negatives, I do think that these survey results have given us positive steps to build on, not least that people know how to access mental health support so they’re not suffering in silence and the role that our amazing clinical coaches are playing in supporting people with their mental health, and how we can better give them the tools for this support.”

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Register now for international insight into veterinary mental health at Mind Matters Research Symposium

Mind Matters’ third Mental Health Research Symposium is now open for registrations and will see veterinary professionals from across the globe attend to present their latest research and insight into veterinary mental health and wellbeing.

The symposium will take place live online from 10am on Wednesday 24 November and will feature presentations from researchers based in the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as from the UK. You can register for this event via our MMI Events page.

Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Taskforce, will introduce the event and will be followed by the Symposium’s plenary speaker, Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow and President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Professor O’Connor’s talk, ‘When It is Darkest: Understanding Suicide Risk’ will draw upon his extensive research and work on the psychological processes which precipitate suicidal behaviour and self-harm, an area of expertise that has seen him advise the Scottish Government, as well as other national and international organisations, on suicide prevention strategies.

Following Professor O’Connor’s speech there will be presentations on studies funded by the 2020 Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant in which £20,000 was awarded to two separate research teams looking into veterinary mental health and wellbeing.

The first presentation will be from Dr Victoria Crossley from the Royal Veterinary College and Navaratnam Partheeban, co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS), on their research into the mental health impact of racism and discrimination on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) veterinarians.

The second presentation is from Professor Neil Greenberg and Dr Victoria Williamson from King’s College London on their research into the impact of ‘moral injury’ on the mental health and wellbeing of veterinarians. Morally injurious events are defined as experiences which violate one’s moral or ethical code.

The course of the day will then split into different research streams with presentations on a wide variety of topics including: the impact of cyberbullying and harassment; the wellbeing of veterinary interns and residents; stigma and stress in veterinary nursing; mental health awareness training in the undergraduate veterinary curriculum; and the relationship between ‘patient safety culture’ and staff burnout.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, says: “As with previous years the Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium promises to be a very informative and important day in terms of international researchers coming together to share their research, their conclusions, areas for further work and study, and best practice. Some of the topics we will be discussing, such as suicide, will be difficult, but research into issues affecting the international veterinary community is a vital first step to putting in place strategies and support mechanisms to help those in need. This is why research will be one of the key strategic priorities for the Mind Matters Initiative and our forthcoming actions in this area will be published later this year in our Mind Matters Initiative Strategic Plan.

“I would like to thank Dr Rosie Allister, a veterinary mental health researcher from the University of Edinburgh and manager of Vetlife Helpline, for putting together an excellent programme. As with previous years we are also offering free attendance of the symposium to those who have lived experience of mental ill-health, those who are currently not working, and veterinary and veterinary nursing students. If you have any queries about the event, please don’t hesitate to contact me on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk to discuss further.”

For further details on the day and registration, please visit the MMI Events page. Please note that, for those not eligible for free attendance, the cost of registration is £10.

MMI App graphics displayed on a mobile screen

New wellbing programme for the veterinary profession takes flight as MMI Kite App officially launches

Today (6 September), the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative is pleased to announce the launch of a new mental health and wellbeing platform, which has been created specifically for the veterinary community.

The platform, MMI Kite App, is one of the first programmes to provide mental health and wellbeing support, which is tailored specifically for the veterinary professions. The app has an extensive range of bitesize learning modules on different areas of mental wellbeing, which each incorporate interactive elements such as videos, journaling and reflection exercises to make learning as engaging as possible. From today, the app is now available for anyone working in the veterinary sector to download and start using to help improve their wellbeing.

The app has been created in partnership with The Kite Program, an organisation that specialises in microlearning programmes and who have previously launched mental health platforms for new mothers and the legal profession. The MMI Kite App incorporates microlearning techniques that make picking up a new skill possible with just five minutes of learning a day and have been shown to help learners retain and recall information.

These are examples of some of the learning modules that you will be able to use from today once you sign up to the App, and new programmes will be frequently added to the platform.

  • Calm Mind – Learn how to be mindful, manage anxiety and remain in the present
  • Hear Me – A module about how to listen to others effectively during times of stress
  • Resolve Conflict – How to resolve conflict in the workplace
  • Taking Care – Techniques for combatting compassion fatigue
  • Wellbeing Leader – Suggestions on how to lead the way with wellbeing in the workplace
  • Internal Compass – Discover how to explore and determine your values

When asked about the platform’s launch, Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, commented: “We’re so pleased to announce the launch of MMI Kite App and we can’t wait for people from the veterinary community to download and start using it. We know from our research that sadly vets and vet nurses are more likely than the general public to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. One of the ways we’re addressing these mental health concerns is through providing a range of wellbeing support resources for the veterinary community, and the MMI Kite App is a resource that we’re really proud to be offering to the profession for free.

“We’ve designed MMI Kite App to be as accessible and engaging as possible, with content that learners will find valuable. We also used feedback from the app testing stages to make sure we developed programmes that the professions told us they felt the app needed to have. We’re confident that anyone who uses the app will find something that will help them with an area of wellbeing that they need support with.”

You can register here for the app on the MMI Kite App project page. All you need to register is your name and email address to get started. If you have any questions at all about MMI Kite App you can contact Lisa Quigley, MMI Manager by emailing l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk

Man on mobile phone with a dog

Pre-registration launched for MMI’s new app-based veterinary wellbeing programme

All veterinary professionals are now able to pre-register for a new mental health and wellbeing app being produced by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) ahead of the platform’s launch early this autumn. MMI has collaborated with The Kite Program to develop a mental health and wellbeing programme, called MMI Kite App, that incorporates bespoke microlearning modules for the veterinary professions.

Microlearning is a type of (typically) online learning which delivers content in bite-size modules. This type of training usually combines a mixture of interactive activities, images and videos, which can be worked through in short chunks of time. Veterinary professionals often have busy workdays and put in long hours, which was taken into account when MMI Kite App was being developed. All the training modules on the app can easily be incorporated into someone’s day-to-day work and personal life, with many only taking five minutes to complete.

MMI Kite App is completely free to use and will have a range of learning modules (affectionately known as ‘Kites’) specifically for the UK veterinary professions. The app allows users to choose the learning modules they want to take (there are no mandatory modules) and work through them at a pace to suit them. The first ‘Kites’ available on MMI Kite App will include modules on breathing activities, mindfulness, time management and physical activity for mental health. The platform will be adding new modules over the weeks and months and the MMI team will use feedback from members to ensure that the content is what is needed.

Angharad Belcher, RCVS Director for Advancement of the Professions, commented: “Veterinary professionals undertake vital work for animal health and welfare, but the intensity and pressure of their work can take its toll on mental health and wellbeing. Sadly, research shows that compared to the general population, veterinary professionals are more likely to experience mental health distress, including depression and anxiety.

“We recognise how hard it can be for veterinary professionals to fit wellbeing activities into their busy workdays and understand that everyone’s mental health needs are different. By collaborating with The Kite Program, we wanted to create a wellbeing platform that was accessible, flexible and had a range of activities to meet a variety of mental health and wellbeing needs. This app will be another useful tool for the professions, and we are pleased to be able to offer it free of charge.

“We are really looking forward to hearing feedback from the professions about the platform and creating more modules based on their wants and needs.”

Hannah Hardy-Jones, The Kite Program CEO and Founder, said: “We use a Kite as an effective analogy for talking about wellbeing. At the Kite Program, we believe this is a much easier analogy to explain and normalise wellbeing and mental health, which can often be very clinical and unrelatable. As people, we go between having soaring kites right through to having a kite that is broken and on the ground.  It takes practice, patience and skills to be able to fly your kite in any condition. Our app and programs are designed to help people learn to “fly” confidently. As you move through each Kite module within the app, you build skills in an accessible and practical way.”

All activity undertaken on the app is highly secure, as users can’t input any personal information into the MMI Kite App and the only data that MMI will hold is a record of active users. There is an extra level of security whereby if the app is not used for four consecutive weeks, then the user ID is marked as inactive, and the user will need to reactivate their account.

Anyone who would like to pre-register for MMI Kite App can do so by visiting the MMI App Project page and following the registration button link. Anyone who is attending BEVA Congress 2021 will be able to visit the RCVS conference stand to see a demo of MMI Kite App and ask questions about the platform. Once MMI Kite App is launched early registrants will receive email instructions from MMI on how to access and start their Kite journey.

close up of man with hands folded

BSAVA’s Emotional Resilience Skills programme returns

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) has teamed up with the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative and Two Roads Charity, to reschedule their emotional resilience CPD courses which were postponed due to COVID-19.

Emotional Resilience Skills for the Veterinary Profession will be held virtually by the BSAVA Regions for the first time in the form of seven half-day programmes from September 2021 until March 2022.

The programme is designed to equip participants with an understanding of the role emotional resilience plays in protecting our mental health. Emotional resilience is mainly a learned behaviour, and there are recognised steps that can be taken to increase resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health issues including depression.

Jennie Bartholomew, Education Coordinator at the BSAVA commented: “We’re thrilled to be able to offer these courses to the veterinary profession again, especially given the exceptionally tough year we have all experienced which has placed additional strain on mental health and wellbeing for many. We know that this programme will be well received and will be helpful to all members of the profession, wherever they are based.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “We know how tough the last 18 months have been for the veterinary profession, and we are pleased to be working in partnership with two organisations who are as passionate about supporting the mental health of the profession as we are. We are really looking forward to the launch of the programme and we are sure that anyone who attends will come away with a better understanding of their mental wellbeing and how to respond to emotional challenges.”

Designed for the whole practice team, the programme is suitable for anyone who wishes to increase their own resilience and develop the ability to help others at work or at home. Participants will work in groups, and no personal disclosures are necessary, although participants are welcome to discuss private issues after the programme.

The programme is free to BSAVA members; £40 to non-members. Spaces are limited and the sessions will not be recorded. You can book your place here or find out more about becoming a BSAVA member on the BSAVA website.

Open laptop on a desk

Invitation to tender open to help develop and deliver new MMI training programme

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) are relaunching their training programme and have opened the tender process that prospective providers interested in helping develop and deliver the new training sessions can apply for. The updated mental health training programme will provide participants with a broader range of topics to attend training on, including some new strands for 2021.

The MMI training team have already started working with external organisations and individuals to update some existing training courses. However, the tender process is now open for organisations to submit a proposal detailing how they can support the development and delivery of training across four new training strands. The new areas of training are:

  • General awareness of mental health and wellbeing
  • How to support others with their mental health and wellbeing
  • Looking after yourself
  • Equality, Diversity, Inclusion

When asked about the tender process and what MMI is looking for from prospective applicants, Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “All MMI training sessions are extremely well-attended, and we always get such positive feedback from participants. We are excited to be expanding our training programme and are looking for partners who have experience in creating and delivering remote training sessions to work with us. We are looking for providers who have experience in developing training that supports participants with their mental health or teaches them how to support others with their mental wellbeing. We are also keen to hear from providers who can support us with creating training courses on improving equality and diversity in the workplace.”

Any training providers that are interested in submitting a tender proposal can contact Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager by emailing l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk

Wellbeing Awards logo

MMI and SPVS look for nominations for ‘Practice Stars’ who have kept up staff morale during difficult times

The joint Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Practice Stars Awards have opened up again for 2021 and are looking for those members of staff who have helped keep up morale during a difficult year.

All members of the veterinary team are eligible to be nominated for a Practice Star Award including veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, student vets & VNs, animal care assistants, practice managers, technicians, receptionists and other support staff.

To nominate a colleague for a Practice Star, practices should fill in this online form on the Vet wellbeing Awards website with a short outline of how the individual has helped keep up morale and support for their colleagues over the course of the past year.

Liz Barton, the SPVS Board’s wellbeing representative said, “This is a great opportunity for you to discuss positive initiatives together as a team, reflect on the great things that you are doing to help your practice wellbeing, and nominate one person who you would particularly like to thank.

“From previous Practice Star awards we’ve found that small acts of kindness – a gesture, a comment, a positive word or two – can have an enormous impact on the overall wellbeing and morale of a team. If you know someone who has had this kind of effect on the workplace then please make sure to get in touch and nominate them as a Practice Star.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, added: “We will be publishing details of all of the nominations on the Mind Matters website and sending each of them a certificate. They will also all be entered into a prize draw with two being chosen at random to receive free tickets to the joint Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Management Group Congress in 2022.”

More information about the Practice Star Awards can be found on the Vet wellbeing Awards website.

Dr Ralph Slaughter in the garden with his roses

Retired vet wins Mental Health Awareness Week competition with photo collection showcasing his love of gardening

An 81-year-old retired veterinary surgeon has won the Mind Matters Initiative’s Mental Health Awareness Week photo competition, launched in May this year to celebrate the theme of nature and its positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Australia-based Dr Ralph Slaughter submitted a collection of photographs called ‘Why I Am a Gardener’ in which he highlighted some of his proudest horticultural achievements and the impact that gardening has on his physical and mental health, how it allows him to demonstrate creativity and how it gives him a sense of achievement.

  • Inherited hobby from parents and grandparents
  • Good for the mind
  • Relaxation is important
  • A sense of achievement
  • Good for the environment
  • Grow your own - a source of food
  • Gardening can be artistic
  • Encourages wildlife
  • Community relationships
  • Brings people together to make connections

Dr Slaughter graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1965 and worked for three years in mixed practice before joining the Wellcome Foundation in 1968 working in pharmaceuticals. He moved to New Zealand in 1971 where he worked for both Wellcome and Merck Animal Health before moving to Australia in 1988. He continued to work in animal health, including doing consultancy work, until retiring in 2010.

He said: “All through those years, my main hobby was gardening which was strong mental support. My main interest is growing roses and I established 14 rose gardens in four countries.

“Since retiring, gardening has been the main aspect that has to date kept me in excellent health. Though only self-taught in horticulture, I spend my time involved in assisting others by way of talks and advice to Garden Club members. As President of a group of clubs in Gippsland Victoria, I am leading a project to involve more young people, and especially those that have depression and find it hard to cope with today’s pressure and stress in society.

“For my part, as long as I can, I will put forward my own involvement with gardening as a valuable assistance to those that experience stress in the workplace.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, said: “Thank you so much to Ralph Slaughter for his very colourful collection of photos of his amazing gardening skills. As he says, gardening and other forms of interaction with nature can have a profound, positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing and we are so glad to hear that he is lending his skills and knowledge to help young people experiencing stress realise this.”

Open laptop on a desk

MMI launches new programme of webinars examining mental and physical health issues affecting veterinary professionals

Starting next month we are launching a new series of webinars, which examine some of the mental and physical health and wellbeing issues that can affect veterinary professionals.

Each of these sessions is delivered by people who have expertise in the issues discussed, and many of the sessions will include practical tips and advice on how members of the professions can support their colleagues’ mental wellbeing, manage their own mental health, and help to create healthier working environments.

The webinars take place across August and September 2021 and are hosted by The Webinar Vet, a leading provider of veterinary CPD training. The times and details of the different sessions are:

  • Chronic Illness in Practice: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle by Claire Hodgson – Wednesday 11 August from 12:30pm to 1:30pm: This webinar will give you an introduction into what it is like to live with chronic illness, how you can support colleagues who are living with physical ill-health, and how you can build a supportive and inclusive workplace environment.
  • Managing Stress with the Right Brain by Mark Tabachnik – Monday 16 August from 12:30pm to 1:30pm: This webinar will use several techniques from coaching and mental fitness to give individuals more options to better manage their own responses to stressful situations.
  • StreetVetting: The Power of Pets and Companionship by Jade Statt – Tuesday 17 August from 12:30pm to 1:30pm: This webinar will look at the life-changing work of StreetVet, a network of mobile veterinary practices providing free veterinary care to animals within the homeless community in cities across the UK, and how the remarkable bond between humans and animals brings hope and purpose to the most vulnerable in society.
  • ADHD and the Vet World with Tasha Walsh – Monday 13 September from  12:30pm to  1:30pm: This webinar will explore the traits of ADHD and the impact of being neurodiverse whilst working in the veterinary world. Learn how to spot if your client potentially has ADHD, the impact for your clients and their pets if ADHD is present, and useful organisational and calming strategies for yourselves and your clients.
  • Taming your Inner Perfectionist by Olivia Oginska – Tuesday14 September from 12:30pm to 1:30pm – This webinar will explain the phenomenon of perfectionism and provide readily applicable tools to manage its negative impact.

For anyone who is not able to listen to the sessions live, links to the webinar recordings will be made available on the Events section of this website after they are broadcast.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager said: “We are really pleased to offer an incredible programme of webinars for our colleagues working in all areas of veterinary practice. We want to thank our amazing speakers for being part of our webinar series and offering us their time, expertise, and insight. MMI is passionate about helping the veterinary profession to be as welcoming as possible, which means making sure we all know how we can best support our colleagues and make our working environments inclusive. Every webinar in this series will be a valuable and informative insight into some of the issues that impact on veterinary mental health and wellbeing, and I encourage as many people as possible to attend the sessions.”

You can find the full listings for the upcoming Mind Matters Initiative webinars on the Events page.

Survey clipboard graphic on green faceted background

Student and newly-qualified VNs invited to complete survey to inform future mental health support projects

Today (25 June 2021) we’ve launched a new survey to help inform its future work with the veterinary nursing profession.

The survey is specifically aimed at student and newly-qualified (in the last two years) veterinary nurses, as well as the clinical coaches responsible for their practical training at RCVS-approved training practices (TPs).

The survey, which can be completed in between 15 to 25 minutes, asks a number of questions including around preferred sources of mental health support, levels of support available in education and work settings, levels of stress encountered, discrimination and bullying in educational and work settings, confidence, the impact of the RCVS, and coping strategies for stress and mental ill-health.

The aim of the survey is to provide veterinary nurses, particularly students, with the opportunity to provide the Mind Matters Initiative with information that will help it tailor specific events and projects for the profession.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, explains: “There is a bit of a research gap when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary nurses – particularly student VNs – and we are seeking to address this, with this survey being a crucial first step.

“Mind Matters is committed to listening to the people that we want to reach, to help us understand the issues they face and what matters to them, and so if you are a student or newly-qualified vet nurse, or a clinical coach who supports them, we really want to hear from you, whether or not you have had experience of mental ill-health and/or needed support yourself. The survey itself has been developed with the input of veterinary nurses and student veterinary nurses and we are very grateful for their time and effort.

“All the responses will be treated in the strictest confidence but will be used to shape future projects, including an upcoming roundtable event on Student VN wellbeing and the Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium.”

Sarah Brown Grant graphic

MMI awards funding to research project which will identify and address workplace stressors for autistic veterinary professionals

Mind Matters has awarded £20,000 to a research project that will investigate the various workplace stressors that affect autistic veterinary professionals and present ideas for adjustments to address the identified stressors.

The funding comes from our Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, which was set up in memory of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown, who passed away in 2017. We award the grant once a year to a research project that explores an aspect of mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession. Since it launched, the grant has been awarded to some exceptional research projects including last year when two grants were given: one to a joint project from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS), which looked into the mental health impacts of racism within the veterinary profession; and one to a project from King’s College London, which looked at moral injury in veterinarians and the impact that this has on their mental health.

This year, the funding has been given to a project led by researchers from the University of Nottingham’s veterinary school. Veterinary surgeons are at a higher risk of workplace-related stress compared with other professions, and the lead researchers propose that autistic veterinary surgeons may be particularly vulnerable to mental health issues. The researchers felt if they identified workplace stressors that affect autistic veterinary professionals, they could make recommendations for workplace adjustments to help create healthier working environments.

The project will involve an in-depth study with 20 autistic veterinary surgeons to identify factors that contribute to either a ‘good’ or a ‘difficult’ day at work, and then develop ideas for reasonable adjustments that could improve their working day. The research will also involve a further survey of individuals with autism spectrum condition within the wider veterinary profession, where the researchers will find out how frequently the workplace characteristics that cause a ‘good’ or a ‘difficult’ day occur, what impact they have on someone’s mental health and to gauge responses to the suggested workplace adjustments.

The researchers will then develop guidelines for workplace adjustments that the sector can adopt to help improve workplace wellbeing for autistic veterinary professionals. The findings will also be presented as a report to one of our upcoming Mental Health Research Symposiums, submitted to peer-reviewed journals and sent to the sector’s press to help raise awareness of the issues that autistic veterinary professionals face.

After hearing they had won the funding, Lead Researchers, Dr Kirstie Pickles and Dr Brad Hill said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this year’s Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Award. We are passionate about raising awareness of autism spectrum condition in the veterinary profession. Having both received a diagnosis of autism, we acknowledge that we bring many strengths to the veterinary workplace, but also experience specific challenges. We hope that this project will identify common challenges for autistic vets so that more focussed workplace guidance can be recommended.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager said: “We’re thrilled to award this year’s research funding to the team at the University of Nottingham’s veterinary school. We were impressed with how well-researched their application was and this is clearly an area that the lead researchers are passionate about through their own lived experience.

“This research project will also build on the work that RCVS have been doing to raise awareness of neurodiversity in the veterinary professions. We look forward to hearing how the research progresses and reviewing the recommendations for workplace adjustments that will help to support the mental health of autistic veterinary professionals.”

If any veterinary surgeons with lived experience of autism would like to be involved in this study, please contact kirstie.pickles@nottingham.ac.uk or brad.hill@nottingham.ac.uk for further details.

Mental Health Awareness Week 10 - 16 May 2021 - Nature theme graphic

MMI marks Mental Health Awareness Week with photo competition to highlight links between the natural world and wellbeing

This Mental Health Awareness Week the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) is launching a photo competition on the theme of the links between the natural world, and our mental health and wellbeing.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from Monday, 10 May to Sunday, 16 May and is organised by the Mental Health Foundation. This year’s theme is nature, specifically the link between being connected with the natural world and better mental health outcomes.

For the MMI competition, which runs until 30 June, you can submit photographs, artwork, creative writing or any other media on this theme by emailing Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk with a short explanation about your submission and why nature is important to your mental health and wellbeing.

Lisa says: “There is a strong and increasing evidence base that time spent in nature – whether that’s hiking, gardening, bird-watching or any other activity – has positive outcomes on our overall mental health and wellbeing by instilling us with a sense of connectedness [see below]. With restrictions over much of the last year on what we can do and on seeing our friends and families, the appreciation of nature and its importance for us has only grown, and so this is a very apt theme for 2021.

“Of course veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses are in a very privileged position of working so closely with the natural world and so I greatly look forward to looking through this year’s submissions!”

More information about the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week, including an explanation as to why nature was chosen as this year’s theme, can be found here on their website.

For further details about the MMI competition, contact Lisa Quigley on the above email address.

Further reading about the links between the natural world and wellbeing:

  1. ‘Nature and mental health’: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/
  2. ‘The effect of nature exposure on the mental health of patients: a systematic review’: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30746588/