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/

Dr Alexandra Pitman speaking at the MMI symposium

Call for researchers to participate in upcoming biennial Mind Matters Symposium

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) is calling on researchers from the UK and beyond who are working in the areas of mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary professions to submit their research papers for the upcoming Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium this autumn.

The event which will be taking place entirely online on Wednesday 24 November 2021, is titled ‘Understanding and supporting veterinary mental health’ and aims to bring together researchers from across the world who are interested in all aspects of the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals.

MMI is now looking for researchers to submit abstracts so that they can present their research in 15-minute talks during the course of the Symposium.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, says: “In previous Symposiums we have had researchers from across the world, including Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, presenting their research. We hope that, particularly as the Symposium is now entirely online, the international nature of this event will be repeated because it is really important to compare and contrast the veterinary professions across different countries.

“The nature of the research has also been a fascinating insight into the work that is going into the areas of diagnosis, treatment and prevention, covering everything from the prevalence of burnout among veterinarians, to the wellbeing of government vets, to how stress and unease can be converted to confidence and harmony through effective continuing professional development.

“We look forward to seeing the interesting range of abstracts that I’m sure will be submitted this year and I would like to thank Dr Rosie Allister, who is a member of the Mind Matters Taskforce and a veterinary mental health researcher, for organising the event once again this year.”

Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words and include: background; clear and explicit aims and objectives, hypotheses or research questions; methods; results; discussion; and conclusion.

All abstracts should be submitted as Word documents to Rosie Allister, who also manages the Vetlife Helpline, on rosie.allister@gmail.com by Friday 21 May 2021. Applicants will be notified if they have been successful within 14 days of this date. Speakers whose applications are successful will receive complimentary registration for the symposium.

In addition to any submitted research, the Symposium will feature presentations from recipients of the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants awarded by MMI in 2019 and 2020. These include:

  • Experiences of racism and its impacts on mental wellbeing in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people working and studying in the veterinary sector: Dr Navaratnam Partheeban, Dr Victoria Crossley and Naomi King, Royal Veterinary College
  • How farm vets cope: An exploration of how vets cope with the daily challenges of farm animal practice and how best these coping mechanisms might be developed into tools which can be easily accessed by the livestock veterinary community: Dr Kate Stephen, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • Moral injury in the veterinary professions: Professor Neil Greenberg and Dr Victoria Williamson, King’s College London

Those who have any further questions about submitting an abstract can contact Lisa Quigley on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk for an informal chat about the process.

The full agenda for the Symposium, including how to sign up to attend, will be published in the summer.

Please note: this article was updated on 7 April 2021 to reflect the fact that the original deadline has been extended to Friday 21 May 2021.
Graphic of a a log fire on a green MMI background

Gather around for new Mind Matters ‘campfire chats’

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has started a new programme of ‘Campfire chats’, informal online conversations led by members of the professions on some of the key issues affecting veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and other members of the vet-led team under the current circumstances.

The free programme of events kicks off on Wednesday 26 February from 7pm to 8pm with a delve into online veterinary communities and how to beat isolation. The panel comprises Simply Locums founder and podcast host Ben Sweeney, VN Council member and blogger Jane Davidson, and founder of the Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify Facebook community Ebony Escalona. In their conversation they will consider how members of the profession can stay connected in a time of necessary separation and their experiences and challenges in fostering togetherness, celebrating community and beating isolation.

Angharad Belcher is the recently appointed Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Director of Advancement of the Professions who joined the organisation at the beginning of 2021 and has developed the programme with Mind Matters Manager Lisa Quigley.

Angharad commented: “No one in the professions need to be told that the last year or so has been extraordinarily tough, but what has got many of us through is a sense of shared experience and solidarity whether that’s with family, friends, colleagues or the wider community. These campfire chats aim to draw on the importance of connectedness by bringing together members of the veterinary community to share their thoughts, experiences and solutions in an informal and friendly online setting.

“Though we have panels hosting every session, these events are not formal talks or lectures and are very much about audience participation and feedback. We hope many of you can join us to talk about the struggles, challenges and occasional hilarities of veterinary life in the time of coronavirus and, in doing so, improve your own wellbeing.

“All those who sign-up are encouraged to join the proceedings with a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows to keep up with the camping theme – please feel free to send us selfies of you enjoying these but remember, don’t light campfires indoors!”

Following the initial event on Wednesday 26 February, the next planned campfire chats are:

  • Wednesday 10 March – 7.30pm to 8.30pm – Pandemic parenting: Covid-19 has placed huge pressures on parents with many members of the profession juggling the competing roles of parent, employee and teacher, having to navigate difficult discussions with children, and being separated from extended family support. This event’s panel comprises Liz Barton, the Editor of Veterinary Women, Kit Sturgess, Editor-in-chief of RCVS Knowledge’s Veterinary Evidence Journal and Angharad Belcher.
  • Thursday 29 April, 7pm to 8pm – Chronic health conditions and Covid-19: This event is hosted by RCVS Senior Vice-President Niall Connell and Claire Hodgson and will look at the particularly serious challenges Covid-19 poses to people with chronic health conditions.
  • Wednesday 26 May – 7pm to 8pm – Supporting students and new grads: Hosted by a panel comprising Calum McIntyre, President of the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS), recent veterinary graduate Fabian Rivers and newly-qualified RVN Remi Onabolu, this event will focus on how Covid has changed the normal structures of study and qualification, including in terms of remote learning, searching for work and how the veterinary community can better support the next generation of veterinary professionals.
  • Thursday 24 June – 7pm to 8pm – Leadership: Leadership during a pandemic brings its own challenges and this event’s panel, featuring inspiring veterinary leaders Andrew Green and Carolyn Crowe, will take a look at how these challenges can be successfully navigated while maintaining a focus on team wellbeing, morale and motivation.

You can sign up to join any of the events for free by visiting the MMI Eventbrite sign up page.

Lisa Quigley

Lunch and learn about Mind Matters

MMI Manager Lisa Quigley is available to host lunch & learn events for veterinary practices or organisations that are interested in finding our more about the Mind Matters Initiative, how it works, what it does and how you can get involved.

These sessions will also look at some of the recurring themes and issues in terms of veterinary mental health and wellbeing and cover some of the latest findings and research into the veterinary professions.

To book a lunch and learn email Lisa on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk

Sarah's Brown family with grant recipient

Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant open for new applications

The Mind Matters Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, which has already funded three ground-breaking research projects, is now open for further applications for £20,000 grants for research on all aspects of veterinary mental health.

The grants were launched in 2019 in memory of elected RCVS Council member Sarah Brown who tragically passed away in 2017 and this is the third year of a five-year commitment to award the grants to fund research focusing on prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment in relation to the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary professions.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, said:

“We are delighted to open the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants for the third year running. Sarah was a passionate campaigner on issues surrounding veterinary mental health and wellbeing and we are proud that we can fund some very important research that, in time, will lead to beneficial effects and interventions for the professions, in her name and with her family’s blessing.

“Applications for the grants are welcome from individuals at all stages of their research careers, including those who have not previously been published, and we welcome proposals on any aspect of mental health or wellbeing within the professions. For example, previous recipients have included Scotland’s Rural College for a project on mental health and wellbeing amongst isolated farm vets in rural Scotland; a joint Royal Veterinary College and British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society project on the impact of racism on the mental health and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic vets; and a King’s College London research project on how moral injury can cause psychological distress in vets.

“This year colleagues at our charity partner RCVS Knowledge will also be offering expert one-to-one advice to potential applicants on putting together research proposals – if you are interested please email me on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk to arrange a phone or video call at no cost.”

Those who wish to apply for the 2021 Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, should send their research proposal to Lisa Quigley on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk by 5pm on Friday 21 May 2021.

On Friday 26 February 2021 Lisa will also be hosting a session at The Webinar Vet’s Virtual Congress 2021 in which she will be giving an overview of the process and talking to the lead researchers from some of the recent grant recipients. The webinar takes place from 8pm to 9pm and places are available

Applicants must be affiliated with a university and ethical approval must be in place before any award will be paid. Proposals should be no more than 3,000 words and include aims, methods, ethical considerations, proposed timelines, project costings, and a bibliography. Proposals will be judged on their relevance to the veterinary professions, the originality of the proposed research and value for money.

The recipient will be decided in May 2021 and will be invited to present their research findings at the biennial Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium in 2023.

Please note: this article was updated on 7 April 2021 in light of the original deadline date for submissions being extended to Friday 21 May 2021.

Vet wellbeing awards logo

Practice Stars Awards celebrate those going the extra mile for team morale

The joint Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Practice Stars Awards saw 50 members of the veterinary team nominated as ‘Practice Stars’ in recognition of their contribution to staff wellbeing and morale during an incredibly difficult year.

The 50 people nominated for the awards included veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, student vets & VNs, animal care assistants, practice managers, technicians, receptionists and other support staff – all of whom were nominated for going the extra mile to make their practice a happy place to work.

All of the award recipients were entered into a prize draw to receive one of three pairs of tickets to SPVS-VMG Congress 2021. The winning Practice Stars were:

  • Hannah Brown, Patient Care Assistant for Medivet Stapleton in Nottinghamshire. Hannah was nominated by Medivet Area Manager Grainne Freeman for being ‘a superstar during the times of Covid’, having helped out in various different sites ‘without any fuss’ and ‘making a huge difference to the teams she has helped’.
  • Jessica Hewitt, Head Veterinary Nurse at the George Vet Group in Wiltshire. Group Director Linda Belton, who is also a member of RCVS Council, said that Jessica had recently received the group’s ‘Going the extra mile’ award because of the positive impact she has on her team. In particular she praised how she ‘leads and manages with integrity, humour, compassion and drive’ and how she cares for the team and the animals under their care.
  • Michelle Boyer from the Client Care Team of Pennard Vets in Kent. Director Dr Caroline Collins says that Michelle is ‘always there for you, she always tries her best to make everyone happy and she is the most compassionate person I’ve ever met.’

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “The quality of the nominations we received this year were very high and all are deserving of praise and recognition, particularly during a year that has been so difficult, for doing what they can to support and encourage colleagues.”

Liz Barton, SPVS Board wellbeing representative added, “If there was one over-arching theme amongst all the submissions it is that small kindnesses, actions, gestures and comments can have an enormously positive impact on the wellbeing and morale of veterinary teams. Many congratulations to all those who were nominated and our three winners.”

Race Together Veterinary Survey UK 2021

MMI-funded survey to investigate experiences of racism in the veterinary sector launches

A landmark Mind Matters-funded survey investigating the experiences of racism and the impact it has on the mental wellbeing of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people working or studying in the UK veterinary sector was launched on Tuesday 19 January.

The group of researchers leading the project are calling for as many participants as possible to get involved to help shape evidence-based interventions to promote diversity and wellbeing within the profession.

The project is funded by the RCVS Minds Matters Initiative’s Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, which was set up in honour of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown who tragically passed away in 2017, with the aim of funding research focusing on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession.

Led by Dr Victoria Crossley at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Navaratnam Partheeban, co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society (BVEDS), the survey is being conducted by researchers from the RVC, BVEDS, Oxford Brookes University and London South Bank University.

The ‘Race Together’ survey – open for participation until 31 March 2021 – will examine both overt and ‘everyday racism’ in the veterinary profession. This includes systemic, commonplace interactions with people, services or systems that intentionally or unintentionally leaves individuals feeling racially judged in a covert or deniable way.

The survey is open to all BAME people working or studying in any part of the UK veterinary sector. This could include staff working in general and referral practices (including vets, veterinary nurses and support staff), staff and students working in vet schools, and those working within veterinary industry, government veterinary departments and veterinary charities.

Previous studies have shown that everyday racism is associated with negative effects on mental health and wellbeing. Despite concerns around poor wellbeing and mental health in the veterinary profession there has been little formal research investigating the impact of racism on mental wellbeing in the UK’s sector to date. 

The project’s Principal Investigators, Dr Victoria Crossley (RVC) and Navaratnam Partheeban (BVEDS), are urging BAME people working or studying in any part of the UK veterinary sector to take part:

“This anonymous survey is open to all Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people working or studying in the veterinary sector, not only vets and veterinary nurses, and we would like to encourage people to take part and tell us about their experiences of racism, however ‘major or minor’.

“We hope that our project will increase awareness and understanding of the issues that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people experience while working or studying in the UK veterinary profession, and our findings will be used to inform the design of evidence-based interventions to promote diversity and wellbeing, and the monitoring of their effectiveness.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, said:

“We are very glad to be able to support this important project, the first of its kind to look at the mental health impact of racism and discrimination in the veterinary professions.

“Diversity, equality and inclusion is a key strategic priority for the RCVS and hopefully this study will help identify some of the barriers and negative experiences that impact Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic veterinary professionals and develop the appropriate interventions both to tackle discrimination and improve mental health outcomes.”

Potential participants interested in taking part can access the survey and find further information here.

Mental Health Awareness Training 2020

MMI holding new awareness courses for all members of the veterinary team

We will be holding two mental health awareness courses in December to help members of the veterinary team better understand mental ill-health and how to intervene if it is affecting colleagues.

The two online courses, which are led by Trevor Bell, an experienced mental health trainer and campaigner, will take place on Tuesday 15 December between 10am and 1pm and Thursday 17 December between 2pm and 5pm. Additional dates will also be released in 2021.

The half-day courses will look at issues such as awareness around the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems; whether members of the team could spot the early warning signs of distress, anxiety and depression amongst colleagues; and whether members of the team feel they would be able to talk to colleagues exhibiting these symptoms.

Lisa Quigley, RCVS Mind Matters Manager, explains: “We recognise that this year has brought additional stresses and strains to both our professional and personal life. As a result, it is extra important that members of the veterinary team look out for one another and are able to recognise when someone may be experiencing mental distress.

“Just like physical health, we all have mental health which affects how we think, feel, and act and that, in any given year, one in four of us will experience some kind of problem with our mental health, with research showing that these numbers are even higher for members of the veterinary team.

“I do hope all members of the veterinary team can take part in this training which, thanks to subsiding from the Mind Matters Initiative, costs just £15 per person.”

Those with any further questions can contact Lisa Quigley on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk

Two tone Illustration of equine vet and horse

RCVS Mind Matters and BEVA launch short film to support equine vet mental health

To coincide with this year’s World Mental Health Day we have joined forces with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) to raise awareness of the mental health and wellbeing challenges facing equine veterinary surgeons, and to offer advice and support.

On 10 October 2020, MMI and BEVA will launch a short animated film featuring a typical ‘day in the life’ of a young equine veterinary surgeon, the highs and lows that such a day might encompass, and some simple measures to support good mental health.

Co-produced by our two organisations, the film depicts both the undeniable sense of accomplishment equine vets experience, for example, when saving a life or getting a tricky mare in foal, and the highly stressful days where things don’t go as well, despite best efforts.

The film goes on to suggest a number of simple changes equine vets can incorporate into their day to help maintain a healthy work-life balance, some practical ways to make the most challenging days more manageable, and general good practice to help equine veterinary professionals keep things in perspective.

Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, says: “Well-established research has shown that veterinary professionals across multiple sectors are at a higher risk of serious psychological distress and suicide. There is also evidence, however, that implementing mechanisms to help vets cope with work-related stressors, as well as reducing barriers to them seeking mental health support, may well reduce these risks.

“We’re therefore very pleased to be launching this animation for World Mental Health Day 2020. Over the past few years, the increased focus on mental health and wellbeing amongst veterinary professionals has led to a greater understanding that if we, as vets, consistently implement small changes to our day, it can have a significant positive impact on our lives.

“Just simple things like listening to a podcast when driving to calls, calling a friend or colleague for a chat, and making time to stop for lunch, can increase our resilience and help us put things in perspective.”

Lucy Grieve, President of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), says: “For most equine vets, most of the time, the job is fantastic – for many, it’s the only career we ever imagined ourselves pursuing. But some of us feel we should always be perfect, which can have a negative impact, particularly when things don’t go to plan.

“Recognising that perfection is not always achievable is crucial in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, whilst still striving for a fulfilling career. We know that, increasingly, equine vets receive some support from colleagues and mentors in practice, but this animation provides a few suggestions of small changes that everyone can make to help gain perspective. It’s not rocket science, or a magic wand, but there is strong evidence that small consistent changes can really help.”  

The animation also includes information about the support resources available from Mind Matters, as well as contact details for the veterinary community support charity, Vetlife, and encourages vets to make use of the support available as early as possible.

The animation will be available to watch and share on MMI, BEVA and RCVS websites and social media channels from Saturday 10 October. Any practices wishing to obtain a high-resolution version to use for training purposes should contact MMI Manager Lisa Quigley at l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk.

Innovation wellbeing icon

From book clubs to boot camps – MMI awards four innovative wellbeing schemes

We have given out four £300 Wellbeing in Innovation awards to practices and organisations to help them to fund creative ways to go the extra mile for morale during the coronavirus pandemic.

The competition was launched in May to find out what innovative activities and projects practices wanted to put in place to enhance staff wellbeing, and support the veterinary team during the unprecedented difficulties caused by the pandemic, by providing a small award to help them with this good work.

The entries showcased a range of how technology could create a sense of togetherness and community spirit, even when teams couldn’t be together in a physical space.

The Mind Matters Taskforce chose four particular projects which it found to be outstanding examples of how innovation could be effectively used. These were:

  • Crown Vets in Inverness which has trained up members of staff to be ‘Wellbeing Champions’ who can help colleagues with emotional support and coping strategies as well as providing emergency contacts for those in need, including during the pandemic. The practice will be using the award to organise a virtual bingo night for staff, including those on furlough, with prizes.
  • Millennium Vets in Braintree, Essex, which has organised an online bootcamp-style exercise group taking place at 9.30am, 7-days a week so that staff could continue to socially interact while also improving their physical and mental health. The practice will be using the award to purchase exercise equipment for the practice so that staff can continue to exercise together before or after work.
  • The British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS) started an online fortnightly book group for its members to discuss books on racial justice, ensuring that all those involved have access to the books whether through a library or via audiobook. BVEDS will use the award to start building up a lending library for its members.
  • Friendly Animal Clinic in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, a small independent practice which had to furlough many of its staff during the height of the pandemic, will be using the award to fund equipment and refreshments for a 26km charity walk which will bring the practice team back together to wander through some of Yorkshire’s finest scenery.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, said: “I received so many lovely emails as a result of this competition from people and practices who were using innovative ways to keep up that crucial sense of community and friendship that really makes a fantastic working environment, even during these strange and unprecedented times.

“We know that the coronavirus has caused a lot of stress and anxiety within the veterinary community, whether that’s due to increased financial worries, being furloughed or being isolated from friends and loved ones, but it has been very encouraging to see practices thinking of ways that they can bring their colleagues together and provide that much-needed support and interaction. I wish these practices all the best and congratulate them on their awards.”

Further information about the Innovation in Wellbeing Award winners will be made available in due course.

Sarah's Brown family with grant recipient

MMI funds research projects to look into mental health impacts of racial discrimination and moral injury

We have awarded two £20,000 grants to two separate research projects, which will look into the mental health impacts of racial discrimination and moral injury in the veterinary professions respectively.

The Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant was founded in 2019, in memory of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown who passed away in 2017, to help fund research focusing on mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary professions, including areas such as prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment.

The inaugural grant was given in 2019 to Scotland’s Rural College to identify how to better promote job satisfaction and to break the cycle of negative thoughts and poor mental wellbeing identified amongst farm vets.

This year the Mind Matters Board awarded two £20,000 grants to:

  • a joint Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS) research project entitled ‘Experiences of racism and its impacts on mental wellbeing in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people working and studying in the UK veterinary profession’. The project will be led by RVC Research Impact Officer Victoria Crossley, and BVEDS co-founder Navaratnam Partheeban. As well as gathering information about experiences of racism and their impact, the project will also determine what individuals from the BAME veterinary community think could, and should, be done to tackle racism in the veterinary professions, and gather the evidence to help design appropriate interventions for those whose mental health and wellbeing is impacted by racism and discrimination.
  • King’s College London (KCL) research project led by Professor Neil Greenberg, Dr Dominic Murphy and Dr Victoria Williamson, which will be looking at the experiences of moral injury in veterinarians and the impact that this has on mental health problems. The research will seek to understand the types of moral injuries veterinary professionals might encounter, their prevalence, the perceptions amongst professionals around how these moral injuries come about, and what support is needed when they occur. It is hoped that the research will ultimately help the development of tailored psychological treatments for veterinary professionals who experience moral injury.

Responding to the news of being awarded the grant, Professor Neil Greenberg and Dr Victoria Williamson said: “The King’s College London research team are delighted to have been awarded this funding to explore veterinarians’ experiences of moral injury. Morally injurious events are experiences which violate one’s moral or ethical code and, while moral injury is not a mental illness in its own right, it can lead to the development of mental health difficulties including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidality.

“This research project aims to explore the impact of moral injury on the wellbeing of veterinarians and their perceptions of need for support following such experiences. The findings are expected to inform future clinical practice and potentially improve the training, treatment and support available for veterinarians to help prevent moral injury and help those who suffer with it to recover.”

Victoria Crossley and Navaratnam Partheeban said: “Despite studies showing a clear association between experiences of racism and poor mental health and wellbeing, little formal research has investigated everyday racism in the UK veterinary profession and its impact on mental health. We hope that our study will help the wider sector to acknowledge and better understand the issues that exist in this area, and inform design and monitoring of interventions to tackle racism.

“As a profession that prides itself on compassion and humanity, it is important for us to remember that not only are our clients and patients important, but also our own people. The benefits of diversity within workforces are well-documented, and we hope that our findings can be used to help bring about the individual, systemic and institutional change that is required to retain diverse talent and support BAME people, to promote a stronger, more inclusive profession.

“We feel immensely honoured to receive this award in memory of Sarah Brown and are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to carry out this important research. We can’t wait to get started!”

Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, added: “Though it was a tough decision to choose the recipients of this year’s grants as all the applications were of a high standard, these two stood out because they are investigating two issues that we know are there, but which we don’t yet have the evidence-base for to really determine their prevalence, their impact and how we, as a profession, can tackle them more effectively.

“They also stood out for being solutions-focused in that the evidence will be used to find the best interventions and support mechanisms for those whose mental health has been impacted by racism and moral injury. We would like to congratulate the two research teams and look forward to working with them over the coming years.”

Both grants will be formally awarded at a special Honours & Awards evening event on Thursday 10 September and both teams will also be invited to present the results of their research at the biannual Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium in 2023.

Open laptop on a desk

Time to reflect with Mind Matters

We’re pleased to announce we will be holding a series of free online ‘Reflection Time’ sessions over the coming months. These facilitated sessions aim to help veterinary professionals reflect on the emotional aspects of their work in a safe, confidential online space.

The series will be facilitated by Mind Matters Manager Lisa Quigley and each monthly theme will have afternoon and evening sessions (taking place 12.30pm to 1.30pm and 7.30pm to 8.30pm respectively) to ensure that it can be accessed by people with different working and/or caring responsibilities.

The themes and timings are as follows:

  • Support from my team – Wednesday 29 July
  • Everyday leadership – Thursday 27 August
  • Juggling it all – Thursday 17 September and Thursday 24 September
  • A lesson learned – Thursday 22 October and Thursday 29 October
  • Believing in myself – Thursday 19 November and Thursday 26 November

In addition to the Reflection Time sessions Lisa Quigley will also be hosting a free series of informal online ‘Lunchtime Learning’ sessions in which she will give an overview of Mind Matters activities and how to get involved.

Broader issues around mental health and wellbeing in the professions will also be covered. Each session starts at 12.30pm and will take place on:

  • Friday 31 July
  • Friday 25 September
  • Friday 30 October
  • Friday 27 November

Lisa Quigley commented: “The Mind Matters Reflection Time sessions are an excellent opportunity for members of the profession to take themselves away from their clinical day-to-day work, and to pause and reflect on the more emotional aspects of themes such as support, leadership, work-life balance and learning culture. All members of the practice team are welcome, including veterinary and veterinary nursing students.

“The feedback that we had from the previous sessions was very positive, with many saying they valued the opportunity to share and reflect on their experiences in a safe space.

“I look forward to hearing the reflections of members of the profession about these important topics and helping them to integrate their insights into working life, as well as introducing people to the excellent work of the Mind Matters Initiative via the Lunchtime Learning sessions.”

Details on how to sign-up are available in the Events section.

Vet wellbeing awards logo

‘Practice Wellbeing Star’ nominations open to recognise those creating positive workplaces in challenging times

The Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) has opened the 2020 Practice Wellbeing Star nominations to recognise those individuals who are helping to create a positive workplace environment even under the present difficult circumstances.

The nominations allow practices to recognise someone at their workplace who has helped to hold up morale during a time when practices are facing unprecedented staffing and financial issues, and have taken it upon themselves to foster a positive work environment even despite the current challenging climate.

The Practice Wellbeing Star nominations were launched in 2019 to accompany the Practice Wellbeing Awards. The Awards, which recognise practices with management systems and initiatives that promote wellbeing, will not be run in 2020 because of the current pressures on practices and because many practice staff have been furloughed.

Liz Barton, SPVS representative on the Mind Matters Taskforce, said: “With great regret we have had to postpone the Practice Wellbeing Awards as we recognise that practices may neither have the time nor resources right now to go through our comprehensive application process. However, there is still definitely a place for recognising those individuals who are going above-and-beyond to help their colleagues navigate their way through these difficult times.

“Nominating a team member is a great opportunity to discuss with your team and reflect on the positive things that are happening, and to nominate one person who has been particularly invested in contributing to creating positive team culture. The Practice Wellbeing Star nominations are open to all veterinary practices, and teams, including those working in universities, industry and business.

“We look forward to receiving your nominations and celebrating exceptional individuals who are committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing of their colleagues.”

Members of the veterinary team who are nominated for as a Practice Wellbeing Star will receive a certificate in recognition of their colleagues’ appreciation of their achievements. Alongside this, all recipients will be entered into the prize draw for a pair of tickets to attend the joint SPVS and Veterinary Management Group Congress in January 2021. Further information on how to nominate is on the Vet Wellbeing Award website.

The closing date for Practice Wellbeing Star nominations is Friday 20 November 2020.

Innovation wellbeing icon

MMI launches competition to encourage practices to be innovative in looking after team wellbeing

We are launching an innovation competition to find the best ideas on how the veterinary team can enhance mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Innovation in Wellbeing competition is encouraging veterinary teams to think of new and inventive ideas for supporting each other, boosting morale and encouraging a sense of togetherness and community-spirit at a time when they are having to physically distance from each other and may only be communicating remotely.

Up to 10 prizes of £300 each are available to veterinary teams from across the UK to help practices and other veterinary workplaces deliver innovative ways of ensuring that the wellbeing of individuals within the team is being considered and looked after.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, commented: “The Innovation in Wellbeing competition recognises that, due to the lockdown and social distancing, many members of the profession will be unable to undertake some of those usual activities that help them improve their wellbeing – whether that’s socialising with friends, going to exercise classes or attending cultural events and venues. Added to that there’s also a great deal of anxiety around the health and welfare of family, friends and ourselves, so it is important that, even if they are physically distant, teams can continue to look after each other.

“However, now is the perfect time to be thinking a little more innovatively about how we look after ourselves and each other. This competition will be judged on a number of criteria, including ingenuity, how it impacts on team wellbeing and morale, and cost-effectiveness. Winners will be showcased on the Mind Matters website and social media, so that others can learn from their amazing ideas.”

Entries to the competition must be submitted to MMI Manager Lisa Quigley (l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk) by 5pm on Friday 29 May 2020. There is no set way of completing the entry so they may be submitted in a number of forms, including written proposals, posters and videos.

Proposals should include a description of how the £300 prize money will be used to help deliver a new wellbeing project or enhance an existing one, as well as details of the practice/place of work. Further details about the competition are available on the Mind Matters website

Heart mark on window through condensation with sunset

MMI publishes online wellbeing resources to help the vet team during the pandemic

We are offering a range of online resources, training and sessions in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental health.

Lisa Quiqley, Mind Matters Manager, commented: “Very understandably there has been a focus on the physical side of COVID-19, but, particularly as we approach Mental Health Awareness Week from Monday 18 to Friday 24 May 2020, it is important that we talk more about the impact this outbreak is having on mental health. Many of us are feeling heightened anxiety about our own health and welfare, as well as that of our friends and family. We know also that many of those with existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), will be finding this a particularly challenging time.

“With this in mind, the Mind Matters Initiative has developed a number of online sessions, including a series of three new webinars and a new programme of free online reflection sessions – Reflection Time with MMI – to give members of the veterinary team an opportunity to come together, despite social distancing. Each session will have a different theme, starting with ‘Kindness’ to reflect the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week. We hope as many people as possible will join us to pause, reflect, and share stories in a safe virtual space.”

MMI webinars

MMI is also continuing with its series of free hour-long webinars hosted by the Webinar Vet, the next three scheduled sessions will be:

  • Tuesday 12 May – Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders in Veterinary Practice: presented by Dr Rosie Allister, a veterinary mental health researcher and Manager of the Vetlife Helpline, and psychiatrist Dr Alex Thomson, who will provide an overview of the impact OCD can have on veterinary professionals, clients and their animals.
  • Tuesday 26 May – Managing mental health remotely: looking after your team and yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic: presented by Lisa Quiqley, MMI Manager, who will look at steps we can all take to look after our teams and ourselves, and how these can be implemented in the context of social distancing and remote working.
  • Monday 8 June – Anxiety, COVID-19 and You: presented by Lisa Quiqley, MMI Manager, this will focus on equipping delegates with the skills to recognise and understand anxiety, along with practical tips on how to cope with these feelings.

You can sign up to any of these free webinars via the events page. Webinar recordings, including previous sessions, will also be made available after the event.

Reflection Time with MMI

Reflection Time with MMI is an online, safe, facilitated space for members of the veterinary community to come together and share stories and reflections on broad themes related to the emotional aspect of their work. These sessions are aligned with the principles of Schwartz Rounds, and in particular their online Team Time sessions, which were developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis, as an alternative to face-to-face reflection. Themed Reflection Time with MMI sessions will take place as follows:

  • Kindness: Tuesday 19 May, 7.30pm-8.30pm
  • Everyday Leadership: Tuesday 26 May, 7.30pm-8.30pm
  • Support from my Team: Tuesday 2 June, 7.30pm-8.30pm

To register your interest or to view FAQs about the sessions visit the Mind Matters events webpage.  

If you have any other questions, please contact Lisa Quigley, MMI Manager, on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk

Sarah Brown Grant graphic

Deadline for Mind Matters mental health research award extended

We have extended the application period for the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant u ntilJuly.

The £20,000 research grant, named in honour of an RCVS Council member who tragically passed away in 2017, is made on an annual basis to fund research that focuses on mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary professions in areas such as prevention, diagnosis, interventions and treatment.

The original deadline for the applications was today (Thursday 30 April 2020), but this has been extended to Thursday 23 July in recognition of the difficulties that researchers may have had in making the submission due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, commented: “With the disruption that the coronavirus pandemic has caused on all our lives over the past few months, we have recognised that researchers working in the field of veterinary mental health and wellbeing might need more time to put together their applications and so have extended the deadline accordingly.

“If anyone who is interested in making an application for the research grant wish to get in touch with the Mind Matters Team for an initial discussion about the process we would be more than happy to help.”

This year is the second of a five-year commitment in which the £20,000 will be awarded annually. The recipient of the inaugural grant was Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) with a project on how to promote job satisfaction and break the cycle of negative thoughts and poor mental health and wellbeing identified amongst some farm vets.

Applications for the grant are welcome from individuals at all stages of their careers, including those who have not been previously published. Applicants must be affiliated with a university and have ethical approval for their proposed research.

Applicants should submit a proposal relating to any aspect of mental health or wellbeing in the veterinary professions. Proposals should be a maximum of 3,000 words and include aims, methods, ethical considerations, proposed timelines, and a bibliography. Any academic literature referred to within proposals must be accurately referenced.

The successful applicant to the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant is likely to be formally recognised at the combined RCVS Fellowship and RCVS Day, which is due to take place in October, subject to any restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

The successful applicant will also be invited to present their research findings at a future Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium.

Applicants should send their research proposal to Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, at l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk by 5pm on Thursday 23 July 2020.

VetKind logo

MMI sponsors webinar for students on looking after mental wellbeing during the pandemic

We are sponsoring a webinar this month that will look at how veterinary students and student veterinary nurses can stay healthy and look after their mental wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The one-hour webinar, titled ‘Calm in the Corona’ takes place between 11am and 12 noon on Saturday 25 April and is being led by the VetKind team, a collaboration between the Association of Veterinary Students of UK and Ireland and SkillsTree Training, and supported by Mind Matters.

The session will look at some of the common responses to uncertainty during the pandemic, with an emphasis on how to recognise and nurture more adaptive or helpful responses that do not lead to heightened anxiety or distress. Key topics will include creating routines, setting boundaries and how to seek social support despite quarantine measures.

Building on the interactive approach from previous VetKind conferences, student veterinary nurses and veterinary students will be invited to share their COVID-19 experiences, ideas and successes with their colleagues.

Jenny Moffett, Managing Director of SkillsTree and VetKind facilitator says: “Although we’re all talking about social distancing right now, it’s more accurate to think of it as physical distancing. Social support is more important than ever, and webinars can be a really effective way to connect, and work together on a common challenge.

“We know that many students may be facing heightened stress and anxiety right now as they worry about the impact the pandemic may have on their own and their family’s health, their education, their finances, their housing and so on. We hope that this webinar will provide some effective coping strategies and an opportunity to share fears and worries and find constructive solutions to them.”

Those that wish to take part in the webinar should email avsvetkind@gmail.com. An automatic reply with the link to participate in the webinar will then be emailed back.

The Webinar Vet logo

New mental health webinar series tackles serious issues affecting veterinary team wellbeing

The Mind Matters Initiative has organised a free series of three webinars over the next three months that will look at issues such as cyberbullying, eating disorders, and self-harm amongst the veterinary team.

Each of the one-hour webinars is hosted by The Webinar Vet and take place at 12.30pm. In order of date they are:

  • Thursday 26 March – Navigating online complaints and cyber-bullying: this webinar is presented by Dr Ebony Escalona MRCVS, the founder of the Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify Facebook group, with input from social media strategist Fay Schofield, and will look at the damaging effects that online complaints and cyber-bullying can have on the health and wellbeing of the veterinary team. The webinar will help take the fear out of online complaints by giving delegates the tools and techniques they can use to deal with complaints confidently; identify ways to prevent online complaints escalating; showcase ways of resolving online complaints; explain the difference between bad publicity and cyber-bullying; and give a list of practical tips to mitigate cyber-bullying when it occurs.
  • Tuesday 28 April – Understanding eating disorders: this webinar is presented by RCVS Mind Matters Officer Rachel Pascoe, a qualified social worker with postgraduate qualifications in mental health and cognitive behavioural therapy, and will provide an overview of the different types of eating disorders, along with detailing the physiological and psychological impacts of living with an eating disorder. The webinar will provide delegates with the tools to identify early warning signs, learn about some of the common myths and misconceptions around eating disorders, and build up a broad understanding of the barriers to recovery and how to support others who are presenting with an eating disorder.
  • Tuesday 19 May – Self-harm in veterinary professionals: this webinar is presented by Dr Rosie Allister MRCVS, who manages the Vetlife Helpline and is a member of the MMI Taskforce, and will look at what self-harm is, why people do it, and to understand the function of this behaviour. The webinar will look at self-harm in the veterinary world, focusing particularly on the context of the veterinary workplace; will give delegates an understanding of how to respond to concerns about self-harm, including providing support in the workplace and countering discrimination; and will look at myths around self-harm and how these can contribute to stigma and discrimination.

You can sign up to any of these free webinars, via the Webinar Vet.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, commented: “These webinars tackle some very serious issues that not only impact the health and wellbeing of the veterinary world, but much of wider society as well. While some of these topics may be challenging, it is important that we don’t shy away from them and provide members of the veterinary team with the knowledge, the tools and the confidence to help and support colleagues who may be affected.”

For those who are not able to listen live, links to the webinar recordings will be made available on this website after the event.

Wellbeing Awards booklet logo

2019 Vet Wellbeing Award winners announced

The winners of the 2019 Vet Wellbeing Awards have been announced today (Friday 24 January 2020) as part of the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Veterinary Management Group (VMG) Congress, at Celtic Manor, Newport.

Launched in 2016, with the first Awards made in 2017, and are run by the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) in partnership with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Mind Matters Initiative (MMI).

They aim to highlight positivity within the veterinary professions, which are known to have relatively high levels of work-related stress and poor mental health, by celebrating and sharing initiatives from veterinary workplaces that are demonstrating their commitment to improving staff wellbeing. The Awards also aim to provide a structured approach to help practices to evaluate their own wellbeing support systems and processes.

The winner of the Large Practice category for the 2019 Vet Wellbeing Awards is Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service based in Solihull in the West Midlands.

Sophie Aylett was one of the judges for the Awards and works at Meadows Farm Vets, a previous Vet Wellbeing Award winner. She said of Willows’ entry: “Overall the standard of entries this year was very high, making it interesting to judge so many varied and innovative wellbeing ideas. In particular, the winning entry used an honest narrative style giving plenty of examples of free and investment-worthy ideas, from monitoring staff interaction with how information is disseminated and making adjustments accordingly, to ensuring personal contact is part of day-to-day culture despite cutting-edge IT systems.”

The winner of the Medium Practice category is Vets4Pets Northampton, for an entry that demonstrated that wellbeing was embedded into day-to-day life at the practice.

Paul Pollard, Head Vet at Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital, a previous Wellbeing Award winner and one of the judges for the Awards, said of their entry: “The practice put a lot of detail into their application and really sold what it does as a team. This makes me think that the team is very proud of what it does and has a good culture within the practice. Wellbeing seems to be embedded within the practice culture rather than an add-on. Having Mental Health First Aiders, a wellbeing magazine, wellbeing committee and participating in Mind’s Time to Talk Week is testimony to this.”

Finally, the winner of the Small Practice category is Blue Cross Animal Hospital Hammersmith, based in West London.

Cat Curtis, Award judge and SPVS President, said of its entry: “Once again this year the quality of the award entrants was stepped up and choosing between the practices in the small category was particularly hard. The winner though stood out because they went the extra mile for all the criteria. They showed that, even with relatively little budget, you can create an amazing place to work and that it’s collective leadership and collective responsibility which makes it happen.”

In addition to the winners, three practices were highly commended for their entries:

  • Watkins & Tasker, Bristol (Medium Practice)
  • Bath Veterinary Group (Large Practice)
  • White Cross (Large Practice)

The winners of the Awards this year will also take part in a panel chaired by Caroline Pearson from Progressive Vet Consulting at 1.30pm on Saturday 25 January on ‘Being the leader you and your team need’. This is part of the MMI stream at the Congress chaired by Clare Balding, where other sessions will include ‘LGBT+ in Practice’, ‘Inclusion and Equality in the Workplace’ and ‘Civility in Practice’.

The full results, together with details of the winning practices and highly commended entries, will be published on the Vet Wellbeing Awards website.

Elinor O’Connor

Upcoming webinars will look at work recovery, perfectionism and mentoring

MMI has organised and sponsored a number of upcoming webinars, including as part of the Webinar Vet’s online Virtual Congress.

The first webinar takes place at 12.30pm on Thursday 23 January 2020 and is hosted by Elinor O’Connor (pictured), a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Professor of Occupational Psychology at the University of Manchester Alliance Business School. Her talk, titled ‘The importance of recovery from work for psychological wellbeing’, will address the importance of having time after work to restore one’s physical and metal resources and how this maintains wellbeing.

The webinar will explore what recovery from work entails and how it supports wellbeing as well as considering practical tips for enhancing recovery from work. To register for the webinar’s live broadcast, or to watch the recording after the event, visit the Webinar Vet website.

The Initiative has then sponsored two further webinars as part of the Webinar Vet’s International Virtual Congress with both taking place on Saturday 1 February 2020.

At 9.30am John Chitty MRCVS will be talking about the British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (BSAVA) independent mentorship scheme which was successfully piloted in 2018, with a second pilot currently underway. The webinar will give an outline of the mentoring scheme and provide feedback from both mentors and mentees on its benefits.

At 10am Professor Andrew Hill from York St John University will present his webinar ‘Myths of perfectionism and its relationship with mental health’ which looks at some of the latest research in the complex area of perfectionism and how this affects professionals and their wellbeing. The webinar will look at how perfectionism remains a misunderstood topic by many researchers and practitioners and examine some of the major myths and how these compare to the scientific research.

Visit the Virtual Congress website to buy tickets for the Virtual Congress.

These three webinars are the first in a series of webinars planned for throughout the course of the year. Later webinars will look at topics such as eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and self-harm.