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.

Church House, London

Registrations now open for Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium

The second Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium, ‘Understanding and supporting veterinary mental health’, is now open for registrations.

The symposium, which will be held on Tuesday 24 September 2019, at Church House, London, will bring together researchers interested in all aspects of veterinary professionals’ wellbeing and mental health.

The symposium will feature plenary speakers from mental health research, including:

Sustaining resilience at work – what does the evidence tell us works?: Professor Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health, Consultant Academic Psychiatrist at King’s College London, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ (RCP) Special Interest Group in Occupational Psychiatry.

The impact of veterinarian suicide on colleagues: Dr Alexandra Pitman, Associate Professor in Psychiatry in the UCL Division of Psychiatry and an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.

The Mind Matters Initiative – what we’ve achieved so far: Professor Stuart Reid, Principal, Royal Veterinary College, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative.

“It’s really important that any mental health and wellbeing interventions are evidence based, so bringing together researchers in this area is vital to underpin the work that we and others carry out to better support veterinary professionals,” says RCVS CEO, Lizzie Lockett.

“Our first Research Symposium, held in Edinburgh in 2017, had an amazing energy – there was curiosity to understand such a complex area, a real drive to provide evidence that can be translated into meaningful action and a strong sense of community. I hope that our second Symposium will build on this and make a really exciting contribution to the field.”

Tickets for the symposium cost £45 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

A small number of travel bursaries are available for students, people with lived experience of mental health problems, and people who are unwaged, who would not otherwise be able to attend. For further details, please contact Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, on lisa@vetmindmatters.org .

Call for submissions

The symposium is also currently open for applications for presentations on veterinary mental health and wellbeing research, with abstracts being accepted up until 23:59 (GMT) on Friday 17th May 2019.

Applicants should note that presentations should be in the format of a 15-minute oral presentation or an A1 poster.

Those wishing to apply should submit an abstract clearly marked ‘poster’ or ‘oral presentation’. The title should be 15 words or fewer. The abstract should include author(s) first name(s), followed by surname(s), institution of affiliation and country. The body of the text 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 on rosie.allister@gmail.com.

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, not including travel and accommodation costs.

N.B This article was edited on the 29th of April to extend the original submission deadline from Friday, 19th April 2019 to Friday, 17th May 2019.

Group at an event standing and chatting

Calls for papers for Mind Matters Research Symposium in September

The Second Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium, ‘Understanding and supporting veterinary mental health’, is now open for applications for presentations on veterinary mental health and wellbeing research.

The symposium, which will be held on Tuesday 24 September 2019, at Church House, London, will bring together researchers interested in all aspects of veterinary professionals’ wellbeing and mental health. It will feature plenary speakers from mental health research, including:

Sustaining resilience at work – what does the evidence tell us works?: Professor Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health, Consultant Academic Psychiatrist at King’s College London, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ (RCP) Special Interest Group in Occupational Psychiatry.

The impact of veterinarian suicide on colleagues: Dr Alexandra Pitman, Associate Professor in Psychiatry in the UCL Division of Psychiatry and an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.

The Mind Matters Initiative – what we’ve achieved so far: Professor Stuart Reid, Principal, Royal Veterinary College, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative.

Applicants should note that presentations should be in the format of a 15-minute oral presentation or an A1 poster.

Those wishing to apply should submit an abstract clearly marked ‘poster’ or ‘oral presentation’. The title should be 15 words or fewer. The abstract should include author(s) first name(s), followed by surname(s), institution of affiliation and country. The body of the text 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 on rosie.allister@gmail.com no later than 23:59 (GMT) on Friday 17 May 2019.

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, not including travel and accommodations costs.

A small number of travel bursaries are available for students, people with lived experience of mental health problems, and people who are unwaged, who would not otherwise be able to attend. For further details, please contact Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, on lisa@vetmindmatters.org.

N.B This article was edited on 29th April to extend the original submission deadline from Friday, 19th April 2019 to Friday, 17th May 2019.

Sarah Brown Grant graphic

MMI introduces Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants

Applications are now open for the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative first Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, named for an elected RCVS Council member who tragically passed away in 2017.

One £20,000 grant will be awarded each year for five years, starting in 2019 (making a £100,000 total by 2023) to fund research that focuses on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary professions, including areas such as prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment.

Applications are welcome from individuals at all stages of their research careers, including those who have not previously been published, with research proposals relating to any aspect of mental health or wellbeing in the veterinary professions. Researchers must be affiliated with a university, and ethical approval must be in place.

RCVS CEO, Lizzie Lockett, says: “Sarah Brown was a talented veterinary surgeon who was passionate about her profession. She was respected and loved by so many people and worked hard to support others. So it is fitting that, with the blessing of Sarah’s family, we are able to launch this grant in her memory. 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.”

Applicants should send their research proposal, along with a CV and short biography for all lead researchers, to Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, by 5pm on Friday 31 May 2019.

Photo collage with text - Celebrating and Rewarding A great Team

MMI to hold ‘Vet Wellbeing in Practice’ events

Together with the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Veterinary Management Group (VMG), we are joining forces to hold a series of four events entitled ‘Vet Wellbeing in Practice’.

The dates and venues are as follows:

  • Thursday 14 March, Kents Hill Park Training and Conference centre in Milton Keynes, 10:00am – 16:00pm
  • Wednesday 27 March, Double Tree Hilton in Edinburgh, 10:00am – 16:00pm
  • Wednesday 18 September, Willows Vets in Solihull, 10:00am – 16:00pm 
  • Thursday 3 October, The Marriott hotel in Preston, 10:00am – 16:00pm 

This training will be led by Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity Mind, Tracey Morley Jewkes from Willows Veterinary Care, and Sean Gilgallon from Citation Professional Solutions.

Emma Mamo, who has spoken at two Mind Matters streams within SPVS/VMG Congresses previously, will explain to delegates exactly what workplace wellbeing looks like, and will offer practical tips and advice about how to achieve this in your own workplace.  Emma will also help explain how mental ill-health can be recognised and acted upon successfully amongst team members. Emma will be attending all events apart from the session on Wednesday 27 March in Edinburgh, in which Mind Scotland will take the session in her place.

Tracey Morley Jewkes will talk to the delegates about her time at Blacks Vets, and how they recently managed to achieve a SPVS/MMI Vet Wellbeing Award. Tracey ran her own businesses before entering the veterinary profession as Managing Director for Blacks Vets. At the heart of her business plans for Blacks Vets, Tracey wished to invest in team wellbeing. She will explain how this was achieved, as well as sharing some of her best wellbeing initiatives in practice. Tracey is now Hospital Director for Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service.

Sean Gilgallon will also offer his expertise, having worked in health and safety for many years, both in the Royal Air Force and at the CVS Group. Sean now works for Citation Professional Solutions, a company that provides health and safety support and HR & Employment Law services for UK businesses and over 20,000 clients. Sean will discuss the legal requirements surrounding stress management and wellbeing within the workplace, and explain how to create a ‘stress management risk assessment’ which can then form the basis of a ‘stress management policy’.

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and Director of Mind Matters, said: “The response to the SPVS/MMI Wellbeing Awards has been great, and this roadshow of events now takes this a step further by providing the opportunity for practices to learn from the experts about practical changes they can make in their own businesses to raise standards of wellbeing and support. They are set to be worthwhile and enjoyable events and I look forward to seeing people there.”

All days will last from 10:00 until 16:00 and there will also be an optional ‘Introduction to Mindfulness’ session, conducted by Sean Gilgallon, from 16:00 until 17:00.

The events cost £85 person, and could count towards delegates’ continuing professional development (CPD). Refreshments will be provided throughout the course of the days.

If you are interested in attending any one of these events, please visit the SPVS / VMG events website for tickets.

Wellbeing Awards booklet logo

Vet Wellbeing Award winners 2018 announced

Three winners of the 2018 Vet Wellbeing Awards will be announced today at the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) – Veterinary Management Group (VMG) Congress at Celtic Manor.

The Vet Wellbeing Awards, now entering their fourth year, are run by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Mind Matters and were created to recognise those practices who understand the importance of motivating and engaging their teams and who can demonstrate their commitment to being a better place to work.

Winners of the Vet Wellbeing Awards 2018

  • Small Practice:  Westpoint Farm Vets, Chelmsford
  • Medium Practice: Beaumont Sainsbury Veterinary Hospital, Royal Veterinary College
  • Large Practice: Drove Veterinary Hospital, Swindon
Nick Stuart

Nick Stuart (pictured right), speaking on behalf of SPVS, said he was delighted that awareness of the awards and engagement with them seemed to be rising year on year: “It is good to see so many practices making wellbeing a priority.  Involving their teams in planning rotas, encouraging support through buddying and mentoring, and encouraging better communication through social events, charity involvement and effective meetings, are just some examples of how our winners stood out.”

The awards will be presented at the opening ceremony of the SPVS/Veterinary Management Group (VMG) Congress on Friday 25th January at Celtic Manor.

Lizzie Lockett (pictured right), RCVS Chief Executive, said she was delighted that the awards appeared to show increasing attention to wellbeing in practice: “This year, it was harder than ever to choose our top three in each category as innovative wellbeing practices become more and more widespread.  There are so many practices now doing great things to value and support their staff, which is fantastic to see.”

The winners will then join a panel chaired by Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity Mind, to share their innovative approaches to wellbeing 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. This is part of the MMI stream at Congress, where other sessions will include ‘The Role of the Line Manager in Workplace Mental Health’ and ‘Managing Emotions in Practice’.

VMG will join SPVS and MMI to run a series of four ‘Wellbeing in Practice’ training events across the country in March and September.  Full details can also be found via the Vet Wellbeing Awards website. For Ami Sawran, Westpoint Farm Vets Chelmsford, winner of the small practice category, this sharing of examples of wellbeing between and within practices is what the awards are all about: “I looked at case studies of past winners on the awards’ website and picked up new ideas, some of which were quick and easy to implement, others are still work in progress.   Entering has been a very positive thing for the whole team as a great deal of collaborative reflection went into the process and we were pleasantly surprised by how much we were already doing; we just weren’t calling it ‘wellbeing’.”

Open laptop on a desk

AMBS to conduct well-being research, supported by Mind Matters

The Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) is conducting a research study on well-being and work demands for veterinary surgeons working in the UK. The project has been reviewed by the University of Manchester Proportionate Research Ethics Committee and will be carried out by Principal Researcher Dr Elinor O’Connor, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at AMBS and a supporter of the Mind Matters Initiative, along with fellow Lecturers in Organisational Psychology at AMBS, Dr Sheena Johnson and Dr David Hughes. Participation will be confidential and the study will be conducted online, for convenience. The total number of participants in the study is not pre-determined, and the study is unpaid.

The aim of this study is to investigate work-related demands and well-being experienced by veterinary surgeons practising in the UK, as well as the role of personality style on the relationship between work demands and well-being. The study is split into two phases, with the first offering an online questionnaire which will take roughly 15 minutes to complete. This includes questions about the demands experienced in work, well-being, and personality style. After completing this, the participant will be asked if they are then happy to take part in the second, follow-up phase of the study, which will involve completing a second online questionnaire in three months’ time. This will predominantly include questions about well-being and will take roughly 5-10 minutes to complete. Participants can decide to opt out of the second questionnaire if they so wish.

It is anticipated that study findings will be published in academic journals and practitioner publications, as well as presented at psychology and veterinary conferences. If you would like to participate in the study please read the Participant Information Sheet where you will find a link at the end to the survey.

The survey can be accessed here.

For further information, please contact Principal Researcher Dr Elinor O’Connor.

Lighthouse with crashing storm waves

MMI & BSAVA’s ‘resilience course’ pilot proves popular

In partnership with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will be piloting resilience training courses for veterinary professionals throughout February 2019.

These free, full-day courses count towards a veterinary professional’s continuing professional development and are designed to help attendees gain the tools to become more resilient in their working lives, and safeguard their mental wellbeing. The courses have proven incredibly popular, with all four location events reaching full capacity in a short space of time. This exemplifies the need for courses such as these, with an ever-increasing focus on the wellbeing of veterinary professionals.

Lisa Quigley, MMI Manager, said: “I am thrilled at the popularity of these resilience training courses, which goes to show that the veterinary profession is becoming increasingly proactive about improving wellbeing in the workplace. When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, resilience is only one part of the jigsaw; but it is an important part, and one that we can all take steps to build upon in our daily lives. I am delighted to be working with such fantastic training providers who are helping us reach veterinary professionals throughout the UK.”

 The courses will be held on the following dates:

  • 1 February – Belfast Hilton – with Mary Bannon from PIPS Programmes
  • 13 February – Elephant and Castle Hotel, Newtown Powys with Barry Lewis
  • 26 February – Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, Edinburgh with the Samaritans
  • 4 March – RCVS London with Work Psychology Group

The term resilience is not intended to focus on the individual ‘toughening up’ to better suit their workplace, but rather to focus on their overall wellbeing and general resilience throughout their lives, both professionally and personally.

Resilience is one of the most powerful tools to possess in a personal wellbeing ‘toolkit’. It allows adequate response to the pressures of everyday life and to ‘bounce back’ when things get tough. Building resilience can be particularly important in the veterinary profession, in which it is known that veterinary professionals display higher than average rates of depression and anxiety, and that, sadly, vets are at an increased risk of suicide.

Speaking about the workshops, BSAVA’s Senior Vice-President, John Chitty, said: “BSAVA is delighted to be joining with the Mind Matters Initiative in supporting this preliminary series of workshops. Mental health problems are a very serious problem in all sectors of the veterinary industry, and BSAVA are glad to be able to support these events that will enable participants to not only learn to help themselves, but also to take back to their practices and workplaces and help colleagues. BSAVA is looking forward to subsequently hosting a series of workshops based on feedback from this preliminary series that will be hosted across the BSAVA Regions over the next 12 to 18 months.”

Please contact Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, for further information, or visit the Training page where you can also find links to register for upcoming courses via the MMI Eventbrite page.

The Webinar Vet logo

Mind Matters Initiative focuses on new wellbeing webinar series

We are pleased to announce a new series of webinars to be hosted by The Webinar Vet, focusing on how to increase wellbeing.

The first webinar takes place on Thursday 13 December at 1pm and will focus on the link between psychological wellbeing and regular outdoor exercise. The webinar will be hosted by Oli Glackin, the RCVS Leadership Initiative Manager who is also a consultant in the psychology of exercise, and Nat Scroggie MRCVS, a keen marathon runner who is known for her blog, ‘This Vet Runs’. The webinar is titled, ‘”I know it’ll be good for me tomorrow”: physical activity, the elixir that’s just around the corner’.

The webinar will explore what is commonly known about the positive relationship between physical activity and psychological wellbeing and mental health, including details of exercise ‘dose’ and intensity. It will also focus on changing the way we approach physical exercise, the sorts of motivators that work for us individually, the introduction of fun and pleasure into the regime of exercise, and will seek to help participants improve their own relationship with exercise.

Nat Scroggie will also be speaking personally about her own journey with exercise and how it has had a positive impact on her wellbeing.

She said: “It’s been an absolute honour to be involved in promoting well-being in the veterinary profession, and to share my own story. Exercise has been my biggest tool in managing my first few years in practice. It has been a relief from the day to day stresses, whilst also giving me a challenge and identity outside of my working life. I’m a pretty average runner, but I recently ran my first marathon, something I never ever thought I could do. It’s hard to explain how much confidence those 26.2 miles have given me in my working life, even if it seems like it’s nothing to do with finally nailing a bitch spay.

“Making time to do something that’s great for your body, and your mind, is allowing yourself the time to prioritise you. As veterinary professionals we are brilliant at caring for our clients and patients, but it’s amazing what we can achieve when we allow ourselves that same compassion.”

Sign up to take part in this webinar, which can also count towards a veterinary surgeon’s or veterinary nurse’s continuing professional development.

In January 2019, the RCVS’ MMI project will be holding a series of webinars on the evening of the ‘Pre-Congress Associates Day’ on Friday 18 January 2019, ahead of the Webinar Vet’s Virtual Congress from Saturday 19 to Sunday 20 January.

The webinar series focus on veterinary wellbeing and are as follows:

  • 7pm – 7.30pm: Qualified accountant and wellbeing advisor Jo Stevens will present ‘How to stay positive in a negative world’.
  • 7.30pm – 8pm: Positive psychologist and professional wellbeing coach will present ‘How thinking positively makes life easier’.
  • 8pm – 8.30pm: Leadership coach and trainer Anne-Marie Svendsen-Aylott will talk about ‘Understanding the concept of “mindset” – a key to finding a more positive outlook.’
  • 8.30pm – 9pm: Dr Sara Tai, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, will be presenting ‘Living the life you want’.

Any member of the veterinary team is welcome to take part in the Webinar Vet Virtual Congress and the sessions being run by the RCVS. Visit the Virtual Congress website for more information, and to purchase tickets.

VetKind logo

MMI and the AVS holding online wellbeing seminar ‘VetKind’

Together with the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS), we will be running an online wellbeing symposium, the very first of its kind, which is specifically designed for veterinary students.

Jenny Moffett, Managing Director of SkilllstreeThis symposium, titled ‘VetKind’, will be held on 24 November from 9am – 3pm and will be led by Jenny Moffett (pictured), Managing Director of Skilllstree, an organisation that provides personal and professional development for doctors, vets, nurses and other healthcare professionals through evidence-based training, coaching and simulation techniques.

The symposium has been organised by Eleanor Robertson (a final-year Liverpool veterinary student and AVS Senior Vice-President) and Hannah Fitzsimmonds (a fourth-year Bristol veterinary student and senior AVS Representative), who have put together a programme of expert speakers, activities and case-based learning experiences.

The aim is to explore the mind, mood and mental health issues that are specifically relevant to students, with an evidence-based approach to the presented topics.

The seminar will be split into two parts throughout the day, with the first section being run by Jenny and focusing on sessions around the Science of Happiness, perfectionism and the Imposter Syndrome, empathy, and how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

There will be a specific focus on the evidence behind positive psychology, which can then be taken forward and practically applied to help manage veterinary life. The second half of the day will be focused on discussions of any prominent issues that may have arisen from the previous sessions. This seminar is set to be educational and engaging, with many universities counting this towards a student’s extra-mural studies (EMS).

Over the past year, the AVS has held Mental Health First Aid courses at every vet school, as well as holding ‘CV of Failures’ evenings, which were created for new graduates and clinicians to chat with students about inevitable career hiccups. These evenings, which were supported by Mind Matters, also seek to tackle and reduce the stigma around ‘failure’ as something to be ashamed of and avoided at all costs.

AVS Senior Vice-President, Eleanor Robertson, said:

“I am really looking forward to this online wellbeing symposium, and feel that all individuals who attend should gain a greater awareness of both their own, as well as other people’s, mental health and wellbeing. The day is set to cover many areas related to wellbeing, and I hope that all attendees find the seminar educational, beneficial, and enjoyable!”

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director and RCVS CEO, said:

“This is a really innovative approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students and we are delighted to support it through Mind Matters. For the veterinary profession of the future to be healthy, happy and sustainable it’s vital that the stigma around mental health and wellbeing is reduced, and individuals are given the skills and knowledge they need to help stay well. This course highlights the brilliant proactive approach from the AVS and points to a positive future cohort of professionals.”

To sign up, email avscommittee@gmail.com or contact university AVS representative.

Sarah Brown

RCVS Council member remembered with mental health research funding

We have announced our Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants, named for an elected RCVS Council member who tragically passed away last year.

One £20,000 grant will be awarded each year for five years starting in 2019 (making a total of £100,000 by 2023)  to fund research that focuses on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary professions, including areas such as prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment. Sarah passed away in October 2017, shortly after becoming a member of RCVS Council in July of that year.

Professor Stuart Reid, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “The passing of Sarah was a tragedy. She was talented and committed and although only recently elected to Council, she was respected and loved by many. I am very proud we are launching the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants in her memory.

“Improving mental health and wellbeing within the professions was one of Sarah’s passions and so I can think of no more fitting tribute to her than these grants, which will help advance forward research in this area and contribute to improving the overall mental health of the professions.

“I would particularly like to thank Sarah’s family who have given their blessing for this project and fully support the Mind Matters Initiative’s mission to reduce stigma, increase awareness, encourage members of the profession to seek support and encourage further research.”

Further information about the research grants and how to apply for them will be released in early 2019. Researchers who wish to have an initial discussion about the grants should contact Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, on lisa@vetmindmatters.org.

Dr Mike Topper, former AVMA President, with Prof Stuart Reid

RCVS and AVMA join forces to tackle veterinary mental health issues

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have joined forces to promote improved mental health and wellbeing across the veterinary team.

Building on the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative brand in the UK and the AVMA’s Wellbeing and Peer Assistance Initiative, the two organisations will work together on joint projects to advocate positive behaviour and support around mental health, collaborate on developing an evidence base, and share best practice around interventions.

Dr Mike Topper left, former AVMA President and Prof Stuart Reid

Dr Mike Topper, former AVMA President, with Prof Stuart Reid, following agreement of the joint statement at AVMA Conference in Denver in July 2018

To this end they have agreed to a statement which captures the importance that both organisations put on a healthy and sustainable profession.

It states: “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.”

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.

Meanwhile the AVMA has a program of activities that seek to address mental health issues including the development of a workplace wellbeing education programme and ongoing education and outreach in the areas of optimising wellbeing, creating cultures of wellbeing in the workplace, boundary setting and conflict transformation. See this AVMA article for additional resources.

“Regardless of where we live and work, as members of the veterinary profession we have many issues in common,” says Professor Stuart Reid, Chair of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative. “The RCVS and AVMA have been discussing how we might best share ideas, resources and best practice for some time and I was delighted to meet with the senior officers of the AVMA at their recent convention in Denver.

“I firmly believe that in collaborating with the AVMA we will be able to address more effectively the pressing issues around mental health, and reinforce the many positives of working in such a wonderful profession.”

“As two highly respected veterinary organisations in the increasingly global veterinary community, it is both logical and important that the AVMA and RCVS stand together speaking to the topic of mental health and wellbeing that affects people in our profession as much or more than among the general public,” said AVMA President, Dr John de Jong.

 

Statement on Mental Health and Wellbeing

[Statement to which RCVS and AVMA agree and to which any other organisation wishing to sign up to MM International in the future will agree.]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.Our approach for supporting mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession includes the following:

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 who need it, provided in a confidential and safe environment, and accessible without fear of judgement.

Furthermore, we commit to ensuring that veterinary professionals with mental health issues are treated fairly and without discrimination.

We will reduce the stigma and prejudice around mental ill-health through education, advocacy and access to services. We will work to promote a safe and supportive culture in which individuals are able to seek appropriate help and, ultimately, flourish.

 

* ‘Mental health’ is used as defined here by the World Health Organization, August 2014, i.e.: “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

Building front - Village Hotel Newcastle

Book a Mind Matters training course

We will once again be hosting a series of mental health training courses with mental health consultant Trevor Bell throughout October and November 2018.

These full-day courses, designed to help attendees better understand and communicate the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health, cost £85 and are open to all members of the veterinary team.

The courses will be held on the following dates:

• Newcastle upon Tyne: 4 October – Village Hotel, Newcastle NE27 0BY
• Taunton: 12 October – Taunton Rugby Football Club TA2 8BU
• Glasgow: 15 October – Mercure Glasgow City Hotel G1 1DQ
• Crawley: 18 October – Arora Hotel RH10 6LW
• Peterborough: 29 October – Park Inn by Raddisson PE1 1BA
• Wrexham: 1 November 2018 – Holt Lodge Hotel LL13 9SW

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director, said: “After receiving some really positive feedback from previous courses we are so pleased to once again be hosting this series of mental health training days.

“These training days aim to give attendees the knowledge to recognise common signs and symptoms of mental illness, and the confidence to encourage others to seek help.

“There have been some wonderful advances around talking about mental health in the veterinary profession over the past few years, but people may still find it hard to know how to start a conversation with a friend or colleague who’s struggling. We hope that courses like this can help with those first steps, and empower people to recognise distress and guide those around them towards appropriate support.”

Please contact Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk for further information, or visit our training page where you can also find links to register for the courses via the MMI Eventbrite page.

Wellbeing Awards booklet logo

Vet Wellbeing Awards looking for the happiest practice in the UK

In partnership with the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons, MMI is looking for the happiest practices in the UK for this year’s Vet Wellbeing Awards.

The Awards are now in their third year, having been started in 2016 in recognition of the fact that there were relatively high levels of work-related stress and poor mental health within the veterinary professions. The aim of the Awards has been to highlight the positivity of the profession by identifying examples of veterinary workplaces that were demonstrating their commitment to improving staff wellbeing through initiatives, management systems and other forms of staff engagement.

In the intervening years the Awards have evolved and, this year, they are placing a renewed emphasis on practices that take a holistic approach to wellbeing, with the Award judges looking for evidence that workplaces are devoted to improving wellbeing across the board.

Lizzie Lockett, Director of MMI, explains: “This year we aren’t just looking for practices that have nice initiatives such as fresh fruit bowls or free staff massages – although these are, of course, contributors to wellbeing – but want workplaces to show us evidence of practice-wide protocols, policies and initiatives that really do enhance wellbeing.

“What we are particularly keen to showcase with these awards is that wellbeing isn’t a bolt-on luxury that only practices with lots of money, time and staff can invest in but that it’s something that practices of all sizes can engage in and that there is a very strong business case for doing so as it improves retention rates, reduces stress and improves team cohesion.”

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:

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

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 and in a booklet available for download from the resources section of this 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.

Throughout the application period the RCVS will also be publishing a series of podcasts featuring interviews with previous years’ award winners, talking about their own initiatives and how improving staff wellbeing has benefitted their business.

Nick Stuart, former SPVS President and Vet Wellbeing Awards Coordinator, says:  “In the previous two years we have had some excellent and very deserving winners who have some outstanding stories to tell about the steps they’ve taken to improve wellbeing and the difference it’s made to their teams, their business, the clients and the animals they treat.

“We look forward to seeing more excellent entries this year.  If practices make this a team effort, brainstorming and sharing ideas and generating feedback then the entry process itself can be an exercise in engagement and provide a useful audit of wellbeing.

The closing date for entries is Friday 23 November 2018. The prize for each category includes two registrations and banquet tickets for SPVS/Veterinary Management Group (VMG) Congress 2018 where the winners will be announced to the media and will be available for interview.

You can also follow the awards on Twitter @vetwellbeing and Facebook /vetwellbeingawards/.

BSAVA Congress 2018 logo

Mind Matters at BSAVA Congress

Mind Matters is heading to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress this year, holding a number of sessions on mental health.

On the Thursday in Hall 6 there will be two sessions hosted by Mind Matters Chair, Stuart Reid. From 11:05-11:50 Elinor O’Connor, Director of Teaching and Learning Fellow at Alliance Manchester Business School, and Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO, will give a talk titled ‘Maximising wellbeing at work: an evidence-based approach’, and then from 12:00-12:45 there will then be a talk titled ‘Blaming, excuses and mindset – how changing the way you think and speak can help change practice culture’ with Anne-Marie Svendesen Aylott, Leadership Coach at PurpleCat Coaching.

Also, on the Saturday there will be an ‘&me Live’ event chaired by Lizzie in her capacity as Director of Mind Matters, to talk about the joint Mind Matters and Doctors’ Support Network mental health campaign, &me. The campaign aims to encourage senior people within the healthcare professions to come forward with their stories to reduce the stigma around mental ill health, and demonstrate that a mental health problem does not exclude people from achieving leading roles in healthcare.

For a full schedule of RCVS talks at BSAVA Congress, please visit the RCVS website.

RCVS staff in group table discussion

Now recruiting: Mind Matters Manager

Would you like to help make a real difference to the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary profession? We are recruiting for a Mind Matters Manager to join us in the RCVS offices in Westminster and help deliver programmes, tools, training and campaigns for the whole veterinary team.

You can find a full job description outlining key responsibilities and person specifications for the role on the RCVS website.

To apply please send your CV and cover letter to recruitment@rcvs.org.uk. The closing date for applications is Thursday 15 March 2018.

Lizzie Lockett at AndMe campaign launch

Anniversary of joint mental health campaign

On 31 January we and the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) are marking the first anniversary of our joint ‘&me’ campaign, which aims to tackle mental health stigma in the health professions by encouraging prominent members to speak out about their own experiences. The Doctors’ Support Network provides peer support for doctors and medical students with mental health concerns.

&me was launched this time last year at the Palace of Westminster at an event sponsored by Kevan Jones MP (Labour, North Durham,) who has spoken about his own experiences with depression.

Overall eleven &me ambassadors have volunteered their own stories with mental ill-health:

  • Dr Louise Freeman, tribunal member and vice chair DSN
  • Dr Angelika Luehrs, consultant psychiatrist and co-chair DSN
  • Dr Jonathan Richardson, group medical director for community services, Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dr Caroline Reed O’Connor, a senior trainee psychiatrist and psychotherapist
  • David Bartram, RCVS Council member
  • Malcolm Kinnear, consultant psychiatrist and Honorary Senior Clinical Teacher at the University of Dundee
  • Rob Pettitt, Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Orthopaedics, University of Liverpool
  • Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, consultant clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and supervisor
  • Dr Cathy Wield, emergency medicine doctor and author
  • Dr Susan Atcheson, senior GP
  • Steve Carter, Director at Priory Veterinary Surgeons

Meanwhile, a number of &me ambassadors will be taking part in an ‘&me live’ session at BSAVA Congress, from 5-8 April 2018 in Birmingham, providing a short overview of their story before taking questions from the audience. The session will take place from 8.30 to 10.10am on Saturday 7 April and will be open to all those attending Congress.

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and Mind Matters Director, said: “The feedback our &me ambassadors have received is truly heartening. Steve Carter, for example, had both an ex-student and colleague comment on his story thanking him for all he’s done, while a Facebook post about Rob Pettitt reached nearly 25,000 people. The campaign highlights how it is possible to recover from mental ill-health and flourish in your career, with the aim of encouraging those at the start of their mental ill-health experience to seek appropriate help, whether that is something profession-specific, such as Vetlife or DSN, or their GP.”

Louise Freeman, Co-Chair of the DSN, added: “Many healthcare professionals face similar pressures that can lead to mental ill-health, including long hours, intense pressure, and the nature of the job which requires practitioners to constantly provide care for others, without necessarily recognising the need for self-care at the same time. A recurring theme that we’ve seen from these ambassadors’ stories has been that they drew on support from friends and family, and we really hope that this campaign encourages other professionals to seek help if they feel they are struggling.”

The campaign is interested in hearing from not only doctors and veterinary surgeons but also nurses, veterinary nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who want to open up about their experiences of mental ill-health. To participate in the campaign, please email Dr Louise Freeman on vicechair@dsn.org.uk.

Further information about the ‘&me’ campaign can be found on our project page, along with a blog by Louise, ‘Me and #AndMe’.

On social media tweets about the campaign are being sent from @vetmindmatters and @DocSupportNet using the hashtag #AndMe.

Graphic from wellbeing guide - 4 arms busy answering phone writing and using a computer

Guide to enhancing wellbeing in the veterinary workplace published

We have developed a guide on wellbeing in the veterinary workplace in association with Dr Elinor O’Connor, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.

‘A Guide to Enhancing Wellbeing and Managing Work Stress in the Veterinary Workplace’ will be launched at the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons/Veterinary Management Group (SPVS/VMG) Congress from 25-27 January 2018, in Newport. Designed for anyone with an interest in the wellbeing of the veterinary team, it provides practical advice to veterinary workplaces on managing stress and promoting wellbeing, alongside examples from the three winning practices of the 2016 MMI/SPVS Wellbeing Awards.

Dr O’Connor said: “Addressing stress in veterinary work not only has benefits for the health and wellbeing of each person in the veterinary team, but the business case for reducing work-related stress is clear; stress is associated with poorer performance, increased absenteeism and higher employee turnover. The wellbeing guide provides information about proven techniques for reducing stress at work combined with suggestions for how they might be applied in veterinary workplaces.”

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and MMI Director, said: “Stress at work is an important issue right across the veterinary team. It is sometimes considered just an acceptable part of working in an environment that can be difficult to control, but things can change. By making wellbeing a priority practices can support individuals and help their team work better together, and thus provide the best treatment for the animals under their care. This leaflet unpacks some of the root causes of work-related stress and may be of particular interest to practice managers, line managers or health and safety officers.”

For a copy of the guide, please visit Mind Matters Stand 51 at SPVS/VMG Congress, or download a digital version.

The Webinar Vet logo

Mind Matters to host International Virtual Congress session on mental health

We will be hosting a session on mental health as part of The Webinar Vet’s International Virtual Congress, on 19 January 2018 from 7pm to 9pm. This will be the third time that we have taken part in the International Virtual Congress and will see Stuart Reid, RCVS Council member and Chair of the MMI, chair a series of MMI-sponsored talks focusing on shame and blame, the ‘arrival fallacy’, and wellbeing in practice.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons launched Mind Matters to increase the accessibility and acceptance of mental health support, and encourage a culture that better equips individuals to talk about and deal with stress and related issues.

The session comprises three talks:

  • ‘The surprising truth behind genuinely living with passion and purpose,’ with Jenny Guyat, founder of Vet Harmony. This talk will review the research data on shame and vulnerability, and look at their impact on the veterinary professions.
  • ‘What’s your Ikigai? Overcoming the arrival fallacy and finding meaning in everyday life,’ with Jen Brandt, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Director of Member Wellness and Diversity Initiatives. In this webinar Jen will discuss how to identify and pursue values, rather than external goals.
  • ‘Happy you and happy team – change one thing and you could change your life’. In this webinar Rachel Duncan, co-director of 387 Veterinary Centre, will review some of the initiatives that helped make her practice one of the SPVS Wellbeing Award winners in 2017.

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director, said: “These online congresses are a great way to reach the many members of the veterinary team. We hope that a wide range of people will be able to listen and benefit from the speakers’ practical advice on identifying areas for personal development that can have a positive impact on their own mental health and wellbeing as well as that of their colleagues.”

Register now for the stream on The Webinar Vet’s website.

Stress and resilience at work

In a bid to better understand mindset, resilience and stress amongst veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses, Lucy Whitehall, final-year Masters student reading Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology with the University of East London, is carrying out a survey amongst members of the professions.

The results will be shared with us and should help to provide an evidence base that will help us to better understand which interventions may be most helpful in supporting mental health and wellbeing in the profession.

All those veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who ticked the box on their renewal form to say they are happy to take part in research activities have been sent an email by Lucy with a link to the survey.

Others who would like to take part can do so through this link.

The survey will take around 15 minutes to complete and is anonymous. It has been ethically approved by the British Psychological Society, and will close on 15 December 2017.

Thank you in advance to all those who take part.