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.

Webinar Vet

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.

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.

Sarah's Brown family with grant recipient

2020 marks the second year for Sarah Brown Mental Health Grant

MMI will be running its Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant for the second year in 2020.

The grant is part of a five-year commitment to award one £20,000 grant each year to fund research that focuses on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary professions, including areas such as prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment.

Named for an elected RCVS Council member who tragically passed away in 2017, the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant aims to help advance research and contribute to improving mental health within the veterinary professions – an area about which Sarah was passionate.  

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) was awarded the inaugural grant at RCVS Day in July 2019. Dr Kate Stephen, a Behavioural Scientist at SRUC’s Epidemiology Research Unit, is leading the project, which aims to identify how to better promote job satisfaction and to break the cycle of negative thoughts and poor mental wellbeing identified amongst farm vets.

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and MMI Director, says: “We were very impressed with the range and number of proposals last year, and SRUC’s in particular. We are looking forward to seeing what this year’s applicants will propose. We are encouraging anyone interested in applying for this grant to keep an eye out for the launch over the next few weeks and think about any potential topics that they might want to explore.”

Full guidelines and criteria for the grant applications will be released at launch, but interested parties may want to look at the information for last year’s process to get an idea of what the application process may involve.

This year we will also be offering a workshop, run in conjunction with RCVS Knowledge, on how to develop a research proposal, to support applicants through the process. More details will be released soon, so make sure to watch this space.

You can view more information on the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant.

Clare Balding

Broadcaster to host Mind Matters event stream at SPVS-VMG Congress

The broadcaster, commentator and author Clare Balding OBE will be chairing a series of Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) talks about diversity and inclusion, at next year’s Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Veterinary Management Group (VMG) Congress.

The event takes place at the Celtic Manor Resort near Newport in South Wales on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 January 2020 with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative’s Wellbeing in Practice stream taking place throughout the Friday.

Clare (pictured), who will also be delivering the keynote address for the Congress, will be chairing the two morning sessions, which look at the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the veterinary workplace, and wider inclusion and equality issues respectively.

The first talk, entitled LGBT+ in Practice, will be delivered by Dr Dan Makin, President of the British Veterinary LGBT+ Group, at 10.40am. In this, he will share stories of discrimination against LGBT+ people in the veterinary professions that have led to poor mental health, as well as positive stories around those practices which get it right. He will make the business, recruitment and legal case for introducing policies for practice teams, to help educate, inform, and instil a sense of belonging and will describe what those might look like.

The second MMI session, at 11.40am, is a panel discussion titled Inclusion and Equality in the Workplace, which will look at the importance of a diverse team in terms of overall wellbeing and performance and how feelings of exclusion, and otherness can lead to poor mental health and wellbeing. The panel will discuss how good policies around equality and inclusion, can reap the benefits of a happy, healthy and diverse team. The panel will include Dan Makin, Partheeban Navaratnam, co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society, Ebony Escalona, founder of Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify and Penny Barker, from the Veterinary Defence Society (VDS). 

For the two afternoon MMI sessions, chairing duties will be taken on by SPVS Board Member Liz Barton who will look at how effective leadership and a positive working environment benefits wellbeing.

The first of the afternoon talks, starting at 1.30pm, is titled ‘Being the leader you and your team need’ and will be delivered by Caroline Pearson from Progressive Vet Consulting, along with some of the winners of the joint SPVS and Mind Matters Initiative’s Veterinary Wellbeing Award who are being announced at the opening ceremony of the SPVS-VMG Congress. They will discuss current leadership thinking and challenge delegates to ask questions about the type of leader they think they are, how upbringing and past experience may have influenced this, and how to become the leader a team needs.

The final talk of the Mind Matters stream is titled ‘Civility in Practice’ and will be delivered by Dan Tipney from training consultancy VetLed, in which he will talk about challenging people who display problematic behaviours in the workplace. He will share evidence from within the NHS and campaigns such as ‘Civility Saves Lives’ and consider how best to apply this learning to the veterinary profession. He will make a strong case for linking wellbeing with both animal safety and quality improvement.

The full programme for the Congress, including the Mind Matters stream, can be found on the SPVS-VMG 2020 Congress website.

Delegates at student roundtable

MMI holds solution-focused student roundtable

Students, academics and university support staff gathered in September for the first ever Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) event focused exclusively on identifying issues and finding solutions regarding the mental health of veterinary students.

In total, the faculties and student bodies of 10 universities were represented at the event, which took place on Monday, 23 September 2019 at Church House, Westminster, including representatives from the eight UK veterinary schools, as well as University College Dublin in the Republic of Ireland and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Opening the event, Lizzie Lockett, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) CEO and MMI Director, said that the objective for the day was to identify commonalities in terms of the challenges around student mental health, consider where gaps may exist and how they can be mitigated, and form a network that can be continued beyond the day’s events.

… it is clear that there is great will amongst universities to look after their staff and students and it was fantastic to hear about how many student- and-university-led initiatives are going on to raise awareness, tackle stigma, encourage seeking help and much more.

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director

She commented: “Over my time as Director of the Mind Matters Initiative I have been to many events about student mental health in which I saw fantastic research being done and really proactive preventative initiatives by the universities, as well as support mechanisms for those with mental ill-health. However, there was often one voice missing in it all – that of the students themselves.

“This is why I was very glad that we could pool together the experience and knowledge of academics, researchers, university support staff and, most crucially of all, hear the voices and opinions of the student body at this event.”

The event started with presentations from each of the universities represented in which they had the opportunity to talk about university- and-student-led initiatives to encourage students to be mindful of their wellbeing, encourage those who may need help to seek it, and provide support for students who have diagnosed mental health conditions.

Examples of such initiatives included the University of Bristol’s mental wellbeing toolbox, the University of Nottingham’s Big Vet / Little Vet student buddying system, and the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) ‘Step Change’ framework which is looking at diversifying mental health support through online programmes and wellbeing mentors.

Following this, there were three talks from those involved in student welfare, wellbeing and mental health, providing a perspective from outside of the UK veterinary profession. The first speaker was Jen Brandt, Director of Wellness and Diversity at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), who spoke about wellbeing initiatives in the United States. This included the establishment of a network of mental health professionals working in American vet schools and a suicide prevention training programme that encourages peers to ask key questions that could save a life.

Alan Percy, Head of Counselling at the University of Oxford and Chair of the Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Group, then spoke about the increase in demand for student mental health services, as well as increased expectations for support in Higher Education (HE), and the pressure this can place on student support services. He spoke about the importance of joined-up thinking throughout the HE sector and the different tiers of support, as well as setting more realistic expectations about student life, and building emotional resilience so that students develop their self-confidence and self-compassion to face life’s challenges.

The final talk was from Kate McAlister, Head of Student Welfare and Safeguarding at the Office for Students (OfS), the independent regulator for Higher Education in England, who spoke about how the OfS regulates duty of care for students amongst HE institutions, and how it provides guidance and encourages innovation within the sector. She also said that the OfS was investing £6m in student mental health in England, in three key areas: transitions, early intervention and support.

A panel question and answer session was then held, covering topics such as the efficacy of resilience training and how to change the learning culture around perfectionism. The session was chaired by Professor Stuart Reid, Principal of the RVC and outgoing Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, and featured all three speakers.

After a series of activities in which delegates were split into groups and asked to tackle issues such as the stigma around accessing support, the ‘hidden curriculum’, and the culture of perfectionism and long hours, topics suggested by delegates ahead of the event and voted for on the day, it was left to Lizzie to close the session.

Speaking after the event she said: “It was a fascinating and insightful day that gave us a holistic overview of what is going on in the veterinary education sector and the challenges it faces. However, it wasn’t just a day of talking about problems – it is clear that there is great will amongst universities to look after their staff and students and it was fantastic to hear about how many student- and-university-led initiatives are going on to raise awareness, tackle stigma, encourage seeking help and much more. The event gave us a very strong basis for future collaborations and we will now be looking to set up focused work-streams to tackle some of the different issues we discussed.”

A similar session for veterinary nursing students is under consideration for 2020.

International vet groups adopt RCVS and AVMA statement on mental health and wellbeing

Our joint statement with the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Mental Health and Wellbeing now has the support of three additional international veterinary groups.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) have joined forces to promote improved mental health and are new signatories to the Statement, which was adopted by the RCVS and AVMA in July 2018 and revised on 29 August 2019.

The statement prioritises positive mental health and wellbeing for the individual veterinarian, allied animal health care professional and veterinary student as the first step to a healthy profession and optimal animal health, welfare and public health. The statement reads:

“We believe that for veterinary professionals to realise their full potential and the global veterinary profession to remain sustainable, maintaining high levels of mental health and wellbeing for all members of the veterinary team is a priority. Improving veterinary mental health and wellbeing has a positive impact on individuals, the profession at large and, ultimately, animal health and welfare, and public health.”

“I am delighted that these three organisations are joining the RCVS and AVMA in promoting and supporting positive mental health amongst the veterinary community. The global veterinary community faces diverse challenges but one common issue is ensuring that we care for and support our professionals so that they can, in turn, deliver high standards of care to animals and their owners – something that is particularly important to keep in mind this World Mental Health Day. I look forward to working with them towards this common aim,” says Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and Mind Matters Director (pictured right).

“Collaboration among these highly respected international veterinary organisations amplifies the message that sound mental health and wellbeing is the very first step to allowing our colleagues to provide for the health and welfare of animals and people,” adds Dr John Howe, AVMA President.

Our Mind Matters Initiative and the AVMA’s Wellbeing and Peer Assistance Initiative are the foundation of the joint statement. The organisations that have signed onto the Statement on Mental Health and Wellbeing will collaborate on projects to advocate positive behaviour and support around mental health in the veterinary profession, developing evidence-based programs, and sharing best practices around interventions. A three-prong approach includes:

  • Prevent: addressing the systemic issues that lead to poor levels of mental health, including the risk of suicide, and sub-optimal wellbeing across the veterinary team. This includes researching the issues and developing and advocating policies and interventions that are supportive of positive mental health.
  • Protect: providing and promoting the skills and knowledge required by individuals and organisations to increase levels of wellbeing and improve mental health in veterinary medicine. Making such interventions evidence-based and widely accessible.
  • Support: ensuring suitable expert support is available to veterinary professionals and students who need it, provided in a confidential and safe environment, and accessible without fear of judgement.

The Mind Matters Initiative has been running in the UK since 2015 and addresses mental ill-health within the veterinary team by tackling systemic issues that put individuals at risk; protecting those who may be working in suboptimal conditions by providing them with training and tools such as mindfulness and personal wellbeing solutions; and supporting those who need specific help by funding and promoting independent sources of one-to-one help.

The AVMA program includes activities that address mental health issues such as development of a workplace wellbeing education program and ongoing education and outreach in the areas of optimising wellbeing, creating cultures of wellbeing in the workplace, boundary setting and conflict transformation.

“The WSAVA Professional Wellness Group’s recently conducted worldwide survey indicates that issues concerning mental health and wellbeing affect all members of the veterinary team in all corners of the globe,” said Dr. Nienke Endenburg, co-chair of the WSAVA’s Professional Wellness Group.

“These issues need to be addressed without delay to safeguard the health and well-being of veterinarians everywhere. We believe that collaboration between veterinary associations will help to raise awareness of this problem within the veterinary profession and assist in facilitating the development and sharing of tools and resources that will support veterinary team members, no matter where they practice.”

All groups expressed the need for enhanced mental health and wellbeing and the sentiment that together they can make a global change for the veterinary profession.

“One in five Canadian veterinarians and technologists have reported suicide ideation, burnout, and depression. It is important that we support veterinary teams and provide them with the tools they need to cope with the diverse circumstances of this profession,” says Dr. Melanie Hicks, CVMA President.

“We have expanded our efforts in this area with our inaugural Mental Health Awareness Week, launched this September. The CVMA offered a suicide awareness and prevention webinar, along with additional resources including a mental health illness checklist and access to local assistance. We will continue to support this initiative throughout this year and every year. We are proud to endorse the mental health and wellbeing statement championed by these respected veterinary associations and look forward to a collaboration that helps safeguard the mental health of veterinarians.”

“The mental health of veterinarians and veterinary students matters to us all,” said Rens van Dobbenburgh, FVE president.

“Not only when and where issues occur, but equally in recognising risky situations, addressing these appropriately and preventing mental problems as much as possible. It is shared responsibility of the veterinary profession to work together, to share best practices and to support safe work environments for ourselves, our colleagues and the whole veterinary team.”

Dr Alexandra Pitman speaking at the MMI symposium

Second Mind Matters Research Symposium focuses on the international evidence-base

Delegates from across the international veterinary profession attended the Second Mind Matters Research Symposium at Church House in Westminster on Tuesday 24 September, where the focus was on the evidence-base for mental health problems in the veterinary profession, and how to best prevent and treat mental ill-health and poor wellbeing.

The event was opened by Lizzie Lockett, the Director of the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and RCVS CEO, who welcomed the almost 100 delegates who had come from across the UK and as far afield as Canada, the United States and the Netherlands.

She then handed over to Professor Stuart Reid CBE, Principal of the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and, until July, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative. In his plenary speech Professor Reid gave an overview of the highlights of the first five years of MMI including the fact that it had:

  • delivered around 60 mental health awareness training courses, many in conjunction with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association;
  • financially supported the Vetlife charity, in particular its Health Support service and its helpline for veterinary professionals in distress;
  • launched &me – a joint mental health destigmatisation campaign with the Doctors’ Support Network aimed at health professionals;
  • run two series of online mindfulness courses with the Webinar Vet as well as a series of webinars about sleep which had nearly 500 delegates across 13 countries;
  • hosted a ‘Medical Mind Matters’ conference with members of the veterinary, pharmacy, dental and medical professions, to talk about how the health professions can share best practice on mental health and wellbeing;
  • launched the joint MMI and Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) Vet Wellbeing Awards which showcases veterinary practices that have staff wellbeing at the heart of all they do and are now in their fourth year;
  • produced and published numerous marketing materials and publications including pens, badges, booklets and stickers; and
  • supported a number of other projects including the student-led VetKind initiative and the Vet NI peer support network in Northern Ireland.

Professor Reid estimated that, taking into account all the various different strands of the initiative, MMI had come into direct contact with around 5-10% of veterinary profession but, through its destigmatisation, wellbeing and awareness-raising work, potentially many more members of the professions.

Professor Reid said: “One thing which I think we can all reflect on and appreciate is how different the conversation is around mental health from even five or six years ago. There is a greater openness from all parts of the profession around talking about their own mental health and thereby encouraging workplaces to put in place preventative wellbeing and mental health policies and persuading those who may be experiencing mental ill-health or distress to seek help.

Lizzie Lockett, giving an example of the Initiative’s impact, added: “There was a recent article about the fact that there was a 500% increase in calls to the Vetlife Helpline despite all that’s being done around mental health. But I think we should look at this in a positive way – there has been an increase in calls because of all we’re doing with Vetlife, Mind Matters and other projects and so people feel more confident and supported to seek help before they reach a crisis point.”

The event then split into two streams of research presentations – these were:

  • Dr Rebeca Garcia Pinillos from the Association of Government Vets on the organisation’s research into government vet wellbeing;
  • Dr Kate Stephen, a behavioural scientist at the SRUC Epidemiology Research Unit in Inverness, on the positive and negative mental health impacts of livestock vet practice;
  • Dr Rosie Allister, one of the Symposium’s key organisers and manager of the Vetlife Helpline, presented her research on how aspects of work influence new graduate mental health and opportunities for intervention;
  • Health psychologist Dr Nienke Endenburg from the University of Utrecht presented on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (WSAVA) mental health survey and how the Vets in Mind app will support the issues identified;
  • Dr Colleen Best, a researcher at Ontario Veterinary College in Canada, spoke about her research on improving resilience in veterinary students; and
  • Carolyne Crowe, a vet and training consultant with VDS Training, gave a presentation on evaluating workplace wellbeing and culture in the veterinary profession through practice surveys.

After the research sessions the delegates assembled for the second plenary talk from Dr Alexandra Pitman (pictured), an Associate Professor in Psychiatry at University College London, who spoke about the sensitive topic of the impact of suicides within the veterinary profession on colleagues. After giving an overview of rates of suicide and their impact on colleagues, family and friends across the general UK population, she focused on some of the specific issues and challenges with veterinary suicides.

She hypothesised that factors relating to suicides amongst vets specifically might include work overload, unrealistic client expectations and complaints, practice/ business responsibilities in addition to clinical work, and co-occurring life events such as bereavement, and relationship problems.

She also gave advice to veterinary professionals on suggested approaches to suicide prevention, how best to intervene if a colleague is feeling suicidal, and how managers should approach staff wellbeing in cases where a colleague has sadly taken their own life. For the latter example she emphasised that support must be offered to all practice staff, as well as key clients that may have had long-standing friendships with the colleague, and arranging a reflective event in which all staff can talk about what has happened and to gauge how they wish to be supported.

At the event’s lunch two poster presentations were then available to view. The first was from Jo Kelly, a small animal veterinary surgeon based in the North East of England, which detailed her qualitative research into the reasons given by small animal veterinary surgeons for their intention to leave practice to pursue alternative careers.

The second was from Rachel Malkani, a PhD student at the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and Professor Sarah Wolfensohn, Professor of Animal Welfare at the same school, on whether the Animal Welfare Assessment Grid (AWAG) tool could help veterinary surgeons make well-reasoned and ethically-justified decisions regarding end-of-life treatment for animals.

The third plenary speaker was Professor Neil Greenberg, a former psychologist in the Armed Forces and now Professor of Defence Mental Health at King’s College London, who spoke about the evidence-base for how to best sustain resilience at work. He said that research suggests that while work is probably a positive factor for wellbeing, work pressures and stressors can also be a significant source of poor mental health and wellbeing.

Professor Greenberg said that, while a range of mental health issues can impact everyday working life, there are significant barriers such as stigma and lack of available services and it is therefore important for workplaces to look seriously at prevention. Preventative measures that he recommended include having a clear policy that sets the culture, outlines responsibilities, and details support; training leaders so that they understand the issues and how to best support staff in these circumstances; and forging mutually supportive teams, as he said that resilience is often formed between individuals rather than within them.

He also weighed into current debates around ‘pre-screening’ of individuals for resilience before they join or train for certain professions and said that there is no evidence of correlation between certain personality types and incidence of mental ill-health and no evidence that any sort of screening is effective in this regard.

Following Professor Greenberg’s plenary speech, the delegates once again split into two separate research streams. The research presentations held in the afternoon were:

  • Dr Randall Nett, from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the United States, who presented his research on suicides and deaths of undetermined intent amongst US veterinary professionals from 2003 – 2014;
  • Senior consultant John Volk, of Brakke Consulting in the US, who presented the key findings of a recent MSD Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study;
  • Dr Colleen Best on recent results of a mental health survey conducted with Canadian veterinarians;
  • RCVS Council member and mental health researcher Dr Joanna Dyer with her research on burnout in veterinarians – a critical review of the prevalence, contributory factors and interventions;
  • Mental health researcher Dr Linda Hoinville on the relationship between psychosocial work environment and mental health in veterinary practitioners; and,
  • From the RVC, Dr Tierney Kinnison, Lecturer in Veterinary Education, and RCVS Council member Professor Stephen May, RVC Senior Vice-Principal, presented their research on how unease and stress can become confidence and harmony through engaging in CPD in non-technical competencies.

Following these final research presentations the delegates reassembled for a closing speech from Professor Susan Dawson, Head of the Institute of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool, and Professor Reid’s successor as Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative.

Speaking after the event, Professor Dawson said: “This event demonstrated that, both within the UK and internationally, we are starting to see the evidence being gathered about the causes of mental ill-health and poor wellbeing in the veterinary professions, but also around what works in terms of increasing wellbeing and preventing poor mental health outcomes as well as intervention and treatment.

“Although there is plenty more work to be done to build up the evidence base and to reach out to the profession to encourage further awareness and destigmatisation, we also shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate what we have achieved so far within a relatively short space of time.

“These achievements have largely been because of collaboration amongst organisations and educational establishments – there is no space for competition in such a critical area as we are all in this together. I have also been struck by the benefits we can get from bringing in people from other professions and looking at the issues internationally so that we can learn from some of the similarities and continuities, as well as some of the key differences.”

The full agenda from the day is available to view and videos of the proceedings, as well as a full written report of the day, will be made available on the website in due course.

Vet Wellbeing awards 2019 logo

RCVS and SPVS launch Vet Wellbeing Awards 2019

The Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS), in partnership with Mind Matters, is looking for practices that are going above and beyond to support staff wellbeing for this year’s Vet Wellbeing Awards.

The Awards, now in their fourth year, recognise and address the fact that there are relatively high levels of work-related stress and poor mental health within the veterinary professions. They aim to highlight positivity within the professions by sharing stories and initiatives from veterinary workplaces that are demonstrating their commitment to improving staff wellbeing.

The Awards also aim to support all practices to take a structured approach towards evaluating their own wellbeing support systems.

Liz Barton, SPVS Board Member, explains: “Going through the entry form and evaluation process is valuable for every vet practice, even if they don’t feel they’re ready to enter the Awards just yet. Sitting down as a practice team for a few hours and working through the questionnaire is a highly useful exercise for facilitating celebrating areas where your practice is doing well for wellbeing, and also highlighting some areas for improvement for years to come.”

“We recommend all practices get into the habit of going through the process annually and choosing areas to focus and improve on, to build towards better wellbeing across all areas for all staff.”

There are three award categories that practices can enter depending on the number of employees: small practice (15 or fewer full time equivalent team members (FTE)), medium practice (16 to 50 FTEs) or large practice (51 or FTEs).

The Award application form covers six key aspects of work that, if well-managed, can promote wellbeing and reduce the risk of work-related stress, and the Award judges will be looking for evidence of commitment to enhancing wellbeing for each of these.

These are:

  • Promoting physical and psychological health at work
  • Relationships at work
  • Communication at work
  • Career development
  • Workload and work scheduling
  • Work demands

Further information and examples of the type of evidence and initiatives that the Awards are looking for in each of these areas are available on the Vet Wellbeing Awards website. The Awards’ entry form can also be found on the Vet Wellbeing Awards website in addition to case studies of winners from previous years.

This year, for the first time, feedback will be provided to practices that enter on areas where they are doing well and also areas where they can improve. It is hoped that this update to the Awards process will further help practices to view wellbeing support as an area of continuous development.

Winning and Highly Commended practices will receive a dedicated logo and certificate for display. The winners in each category will also receive two registrations and banquet tickets for SPVS/VMG Congress 2020.

“The Vet Wellbeing Awards celebrate the positive initiatives that practices are running to improve wellbeing in their workplaces, as well as celebrating a strong focus on wellbeing overall. They aim to highlight practical examples of how wellbeing is integrated into the successful running of practices,” says Mind Matters Manager, Lisa Quigley.

“The importance of making a concerted effort to improve wellbeing within the veterinary professions cannot be understated and we hope that these awards motivate practices to boost their wellbeing efforts with great examples from across the UK.”

In addition to the Wellbeing Awards, the RCVS and SPVS are also running the Practice Star nominations, which are open to all veterinary practices.

These nominations aim to support practices to thank someone in their team who has gone the extra mile to make the practice a happy place to work, whether this be through introducing an initiative that makes everyone’s work life better, going out of their way to support a colleague going through a tough time, or simply making everyone smile.

The nominations are an opportunity to get together as a team, reflect on the great things that are being done together to help practice wellbeing and nominate one person who particularly deserves thanks.

There is no judging process for these nominations. To enter, practices need to send in their nominee’s name, job title and contact details, and a short paragraph explaining why they have been chosen. They will then receive a certificate congratulating them for being nominated as the practice’s very own ‘Practice Wellbeing Star’.

The closing date for both the Wellbeing Award entries and Practice Star nominations is Friday 29 November 2019.

In the lead up to the closing of nominations SPVS and MMI, in partnership with the Veterinary Management Group, are running Vet Wellbeing in Practice roadshow events. These aim to support businesses to understand the importance of looking after their teams and feature three speakers, each with their own expertise and background on wellbeing in the work place.

Tickets are still available for one of the events, on Wednesday 18 September, in Solihull, for £85. More information can be found online here. 

15.11.19 – NB the deadline for Wellbeing Award entries and Practice Star nominations was amended from 22 November to 29 November 2019.

Lighthouse

MMI and BSAVA launch new emotional resilience courses

MMI, in partnership with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), are launching new emotional resilience courses, with the first course taking place in November this year.

Titled ‘Emotional Resilience for the Veterinary Team’, the one-day courses are free to BSAVA members and are designed to equip participants with an understanding of the role emotional resilience plays in protecting our mental wellbeing.

“Emotional resilience is mainly a learned behaviour, however our level of resilience is not static, and we can take steps to increase our resilience and reduce our risk of developing mental health issues including clinical depression. This new programme is suitable for anyone who wishes to increase their own resilience and develop the ability to help others at work or at home,” says Mind Matters Initiative Manager Lisa Quigley.

“It is important to note that building resilience, particularly within the veterinary professions, is not about telling people that they should ‘put up’ with bad work environments – we are aware that so many veterinary practices take steps to ensure supportive and positive work environments for their teams. It is instead about giving individuals the tools to support and enable them to cope with the challenges that the veterinary professions bring – and this is what these new courses aim to do.”

BSAVA President Sue Paterson expands: “BSAVA has worked closely with RCVS and Mind Matters Initiative for several years and the new resilience courses are the next phase in this area of focus. It is essential to give all members of the veterinary practice the tools to develop resilience in themselves and to support each other and we are delighted BSAVA is able to provide these courses for our members and for the wider veterinary profession”.

Part one of the course focuses on emotional resilience, particularly within the veterinary professions. Part two of the course focuses on the life skills of highly resilient people including listening, using strategy to solve problems, managing emotions, building social capital and knowing how to access help.

Mary Bannon, Programme Manager, from PIPS Programmes CIC, who are delivering the training, says of the course: “This workshop is designed for the whole practice team and encourages participants to work in groups. No personal disclosures are necessary during the course – although participants are very welcome to discuss private issues after the workshop. PIPS Programmes CIC are delighted to be part of this MMI/BSAVA initiative”

The courses are free to BSAVA members and cost £40.00 (including VAT) for non-members. Find out more and purchase tickets here

Sarah's Brown family with grant recipient

Mental health research grant recipient announced

We are pleased to announce that Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is the successful recipient of the inaugural Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant.

The Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant was named for an elected RCVS Council member who tragically passed away in 2017. It provides £20,000 worth of funding for research focused on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary professions, including areas such as prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment.

Professor Stuart Reid, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “While nothing can replace Sarah, I am glad that, with the blessing of her family, we have been able to launch these grants and, indeed, find a worthy recipient.

“We were very impressed with SRUC’s proposal because it focused on farm animal veterinary sector, an area of practice that can be harder to address when it comes to mental health support, but which has significant challenges that research has demonstrated can put strains on the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary surgeons. For example, some farm vets have cited isolation, the challenging nature of some aspects of the job and the great responsibility it carries for the livelihood of farmers and rural communities as being particularly stressful.

“The SRUC research has the very laudable aim of identifying how to better promote job satisfaction and to break the cycle of negative thoughts and poor mental wellbeing identified amongst farm vets, and so we are very glad to have made this award to the team. It’s only by improving the veterinary mental health evidence base that we will be able to hone the interventions and support that is available to members of the veterinary team.”

SRUC was awarded the grant at RCVS Day on Friday 12 July. Dr Kate Stephen, a Behavioural Scientist at SRUC’s Epidemiology Research Unit, will lead the project and undertake the majority of qualitative data collection and analysis.

Kate Stephen said: “It is an honour to be awarded this grant. We hope our project will make a positive contribution towards understanding and improving the mental health and wellbeing of individuals in the veterinary profession.”

Based on the output of the research, which will comprise qualitative data gathering and workshops, at least one tool will be selected for development as a web application, which will be made available for testing in the final phase of the project.

The team at SRUC has been invited to present its research findings at the biennial Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium in 2021.

Meghan Conroy RVN

&Me blog shares VN’s mental health journey

To observe both Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Week, Mind Matters (MMI) and the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) have published the first blog by a veterinary nurse as part of our joint mental health anti-stigma campaign, &me.

&me encourages people within healthcare professions to come forward with their personal mental health stories, to demonstrate that mental health issues do not preclude people from achieving leading roles in healthcare.

“By reducing stigma and showing that it is possible to continue to flourish in your career no matter where you are on the mental health continuum, our &Me role models help those who are not yet seeking help or who are struggling with their diagnosis to speak to appropriate people,” says Mind Matters Manager, Lisa Quigley.

“We often talk about veterinary surgeons’ mental health and the wider prevalence of mental health issues within the veterinary professions. We are incredibly pleased to have our first VN &me ambassador and this blog will hopefully open the way for other veterinary nurses at all stages of their careers to talk more openly about their mental health to trusted people and healthcare professionals. We thank its author, Meg Conroy, for her bravery in stepping forward to talk about her own experiences.”

In this new blog post, senior veterinary nurse Meg shares her personal experience with mental illness and how she has managed it whilst progressing her career in the nursing profession.

“In January 2018 I was promoted to Head Nurse for the Hub of practices and had volunteered for British Small Animal Veterinary Association Southern region and Congress committee. I felt on top of the world. I was married in July 2018, the best day of my life. But then suddenly, my black dog was upon me. Everything from the last eighteen months crashed down on me like a tsunami. Everything I had pushed to the back of my mind came flooding back. This is when I truly started to change how I viewed my mental health,” says Meg.

“Before it was a dark, damning secret that I was ashamed of. Now I had supportive colleagues who genuinely just wanted me to get better. After five weeks off work, medication and starting counselling, I was ready to give work another go. I remember taking my first blood sample, shaking and tears filling my eyes. I didn’t think I would ever be whole again. Eight months on from my last episode, I feel stronger than ever, I fought every day until one day it became easier.

“We talk often about what our mental health takes away from us, but what has my mental health given me? It’s given me a greater understanding and empathy towards others. My mental health is a part of me, but it does not define me. Certainly not as a nurse.”

Meg’s full blog can be found here.

We are continuing to seek &Me Ambassadors from across the veterinary team. Those considering joining the campaign should first contact Dr Louise Freeman, Vice-Chair of the Doctors’ Support Network, on vicechair@dsn.org.uk, for a discussion about the potential personal impact.

Our &me Ambassadors share their inspiring stories to provide general encouragement and to help breakdown stigma, but if you need support, please seek it from your healthcare provider or a specialist service, rather than contacting the Ambassadors in person.