Eleanor Ferguson

Mental health on the agenda at SPVS VPMA Congress

Later this month we will be putting mental health on the agenda at this year’s joint Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) Congress.

RCVS staff will be on stand 35 of the exhibition area at the Congress, which takes place at the Celtic Manor Resort on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 January, where they will be available to answer any queries.

The main focus on Friday will be our Mind Matters Initiative, which has collaborated with SPVS and the VPMA to support a stream on mental health and wellbeing which will be chaired by Claudia Hammond, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘All in the Mind’.

The stream will start at 10.40am with a panel session chaired by Claudia Hammond with Alastair Campbell, whose father was a vet and has candidly spoken about his own mental health problems, entitled ‘The Dangers of Stigma’.

At 1.45pm, Claudia Hammond will give a talk called ‘Emotional Rollercoaster’, looking at different emotions and how our brain produces them, followed at 3.30pm by a presentation on ‘Mental Health in Practice’ by Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity Mind.

On Saturday, we will be giving two talks about our concerns investigation process and the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) respectively.

At 11.15am Eleanor Ferguson (pictured above right), our Head of Professional Conduct , will be leading a session on the ‘Team Approach to RCVS Complaints Procedures’ looking at what practices can do to reduce the chance of complaints being made and how they can engage with the process when a concern has been raised.

At 12.15pm Pam Mosedale, the Practice Standards Team Acting Lead Assessor, will be running a session called ‘Do you offer ‘Outstanding’ Client Service?’ which will be looking at the new PSS Awards and how practices can prepare for them, with a focus on the Client Service Award.

On the morning of the same day, between 9.40am and 10.40am, Pam will also be holding workshops for equine and large animal practices on preparing for the new awards and assessment process for the PSS.

Neil smith

Mind Matters Initiative to host Wellness Symposium at Virtual Congress 2016

As part of our Mind Matters Initiative, we have collaborated with The Webinar Vet to offer a free ‘Wellness Symposium’ for the veterinary professions as part of the 4th International Webinar Vet Virtual Congress 2016.

The symposium takes place on Friday 8 January between 7pm and 9pm, and focuses on how to develop and improve wellbeing in your working life.

The symposium will feature four speakers:

  • Neil Smith (pictured right), RCVS Council member and the Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, who will be introducing the initiative and its aims;
  • Veterinary coach and mentor Carolyne Crowe will give a talk entitled ‘How to cope with work-related stress’;
  • Medical nurse Dr Mike Scanlan will be giving a talk called ‘Live more mindfully and increase your psychological flexibility – a pathway to happiness’;
  • RCVS Council member and veterinary mental health campaigner David Bartram will be talking about how to enhance personal mental wellbeing.

Speaking about the symposium, Neil Smith said: “We are very glad to be able to bring these presentations to the profession for free via The Webinar Vet, particularly as, over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that mental ill-health is a significant issue facing the veterinary professions.

“With its focus on wellbeing and resourcefulness, I hope this content will help provide all members of the veterinary team with the tools they need to improve their mental health and their ability to cope with the stress and pressure that often accompanies life in veterinary practice.”

Visit The Webinar Vet to find out more and register for the Wellbeing Symposium. Recordings of the symposium will be made available after the event.

Mind Matters Initiative trials mental health awareness courses

We are trialling a series of mental health awareness courses for members of the practice team over the coming weeks.

The Mind Matters Initiative aims to make a real difference to those in the veterinary team struggling with mental health issues.

Mental ill-health will affect one in four people in the UK over the next 12 months. There are particular issues within the veterinary team, with elevated rates of suicide compared with the population at large, and patterns of distress, anxiety and depression, among other illnesses.

The training aims to help individuals better understand the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health and know how to communicate with people they are concerned about. They are not counselling courses, but provide basic information about how to manage important first conversations, and understand how to point people to relevant sources of professional help. The training also offers tips on stress management and staying well.

The trial will comprise four courses, with variations in location, duration, time of day and course provider.

Following the trial an assessment will be made about which course type(s) worked best and a series rolled out across the UK next year.

The dates are as follows, please register via Eventbrite using the links underneath each event:

Winchester

Venue: Holiday Inn, Winchester, Telegraph Way, Morn Hill, Winchester SO21 1HZ

Date: 23 November 2015

Time: 2pm-5pm

FULLY BOOKED

Wrexham

Venue: Holt Lodge Hotel, Wrexham Road, Wrexham  LL13 9SW

Date: 27 November 2015

Time: 1.30pm-4.30pm

FULLY BOOKED

Newcastle

Venue: Newcastle Marriott, Gosforth Park, High Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 5HN

Date: 30 November 2015

Time: 9am-5pm

Lunch provided

FULLY BOOKED

Coventry

Venue: Ramada Coventry, The Butts, Earlsdon Coventry West Midlands CV1 3GG

Date: 8 December 2015

Time: 6pm-9.30pm

A buffet supper will be served from 6pm with the course starting at 6.30pm

FULLY BOOKED

 

“The courses are open to all members of the veterinary practice team, or veterinary surgeons or nurses working in other environments,” explains Lizzie Lockett, MMI Project Director.

“We would ideally like two people from each participating workplace to attend, with one being a senior person within the organisation, as we wish to ensure that those attending are able to cascade information across the organisation effectively when they return, and are well supported themselves.

“However, it’s appreciated that in some practices this may not be possible, so it should not be seen as a barrier to attending.”

The courses, worth about £175 per delegate, are free to attend as they are part of a trial, but we will require feedback from the delegates to help assess how effective the course has been.

The training can be considered as continuing professional development.

 

About the courses

The Winchester and Newcastle courses are run by Mental Health First Aid England. MHFA came to England in 2007 and was developed and launched under the Department of Health: National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE) as part of a national approach to improving public mental health. In 2009 it became a Community Interest Company (CIC).

Mental Health First Aid is an educational course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue. In the same way as we learn physical first aid, Mental Health First Aid teaches you how to recognise those crucial warning signs of mental ill health.

Developed in Australia in 2000 and now internationally recognised in 23 countries, the MHFA course teaches people how to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, provide help on a first aid basis and effectively guide someone towards the right support services.

To date MHFA has trained over 1,200 instructors in England who have delivered the MHFA courses to over 100,000 people.

 

The Wrexham and Coventry courses are run by Connecting with People. It is evidence-based training and has been co-designed by healthcare practitioners, academics and senior business leaders who have worked in high pressure organisations.

The training is based on the latest medical research and now forms part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ (RCPsych) education programme and is a key module on the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) accredited Primary Care Mental Health Education (PRIMHE) Diploma in Mental Health.

It is a founding project within the College of Medicine. Connecting with People is also cited in the RCPsych College Report on self-harm and suicide and has secured the support of the RCGP/RCPsych Primary Care Mental Health Forum and the RCGP Rural and Remote Forum.

If you have any questions, please contact Mind Matters Project Director Lizzie Lockett, on l.lockett@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0725.

Ground-breaking mental health conference for the medical professions

We have joined forces with Maudsley Learning to host a ground-breaking conference to address mental health issues across the medical professions.

The one-day event, Medical Minds Matter, will take place on 28 October 2015 at Maudsley Learning’s ORTUS learning and events centre in South London. It aims better to understand the mental health challenges affecting medical professionals – such as veterinary surgeons, doctors, dentists and pharmacists – and to facilitate the sharing of learning and best practice around supporting individuals and addressing the issues.

The conference is part of the Mind Matters Initiative, a five-year project funded and run by the RCVS to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness in the veterinary profession, develop a culture where help-seeking is accepted, improve access to sources of appropriate help, and facilitate the sharing of best practice in terms of intervention and support.

“Medical Minds Matter will be a unique event, bringing together a diverse range of medical professionals for the first time to tackle an issue that is, sadly, one that looms large for many professions,” says Colonel Neil Smith, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative.

“There is much we can learn from each other, and we hope that the event will help delegates develop a shared understanding of common issues and successful

interventions, as well as paving the way for future collaborations across the professions.”

The day will include speakers from organisations including The Royal College of General Practitioners, the University of Bath, King’s College London, Pharmacist Support, the Doctors’ Support Network, the SAFEMED Programme, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and the Dentists’ Health Support Programme.

Workshop sessions will focus on shared themes, such as peer support and resilience building; cognitive behavioural therapy; and, tackling stigma. There will also be the opportunity to share ideas for future collaboration.

Tickets, which cost £45 for professionals and £25 for students and researchers, are available on the Eventbrite page.

For more information, please view the flyer.

£1m funding announcement for Mind Matters

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has announced a total of £1 million funding to address mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession over the next five years.

It shows the College’s commitment in this vital area, and is a substantial amount that will really help change lives.

Mind Matters was launched in December 2014 and our Operational Board has now agreed £100K of funding for the first year of the initiative, with a view to a similar amount per year for the subsequent four years.

Meanwhile, we intend to contribute approximately £500K over the next five years to the Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme (VSHSP). This is a continuation of previous funding, effectively doubling our contribution.

The VSHSP, independently run by the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, offers a confidential service that aims to combat problems with alcohol, drugs, eating disorders and other addictive and mental health issues.

“I am delighted that we have £500K of new funding over the next five years to dedicate to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary team, together with the increase to our support for the VSHSP,” says Neil Smith, Mind Matters’ Chair. “It shows the College’s commitment in this vital area, and is a substantial amount that will really help change lives.”

The funding will be reviewed annually as part of our budgeting process.

Mind Matters activities will fall into five streams:

  • Learning and understanding best practice – research within the veterinary profession, for example, into occupational stress factors; and among other related professions and private and public sector organisations that have successfully tackled similar issues.
  • Changing the culture – a programme of communications activities to help generate a positive environment for discussion, reduce stigma, increase awareness and the ability to identify risks, and encourage help-seeking behaviour.
  • Intervention: personal level – financial and other support for existing services, such as the Vet Helpline and Veterinary Surgeons Health Support Programme, together with an investigation into what more may be required to support those in need.
  • Intervention: supporting the supporters – training and guidance for those who may be working or living with someone who needs assistance, in order to help supporters spot and understand signs of stress and mental illness, and help the person seek expert help.
  • Making changes – working closely with the joint RCVS/British Veterinary Association Vet Futures project to help identify aspects of how the profession is structured and run (from student to retirement) that exacerbate stress and mental health problems – and consider how they may be addressed.

Mind Matters is supported by a taskforce, comprising the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, the British Veterinary Association, the British Veterinary Nursing Association, the Veterinary Practice Management Association, the Veterinary Schools Council, the Veterinary Defence Society, the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons and the Association of Veterinary Students.

 

Rosie Allister

Vet Futures poll asks profession about mental ill-health

This month, Vet Futures, the joint RCVS/BVA initiative, asks members of the profession whether they would recognise mental health problems in their colleagues.

The question is posed in relation to the second Vet Futures guest blog which, this January, is written by Rosie Allister, the Chair of the Vet Helpline and a Director of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund.

She argues that members of the profession need to be more open about the mental health challenges they experience and not be afraid to seek help.

Rosie, who is also a researcher at the University of Edinburgh specialising in veterinary wellbeing, writes that members of the profession should be more willing to open up about their own mental health problems and intervene by talking and listening to colleagues who may be suffering from mental ill-health.

For example, she says: “Looking to the future, we need to better understand who is most at risk, how to reach out to them, and how we can start to change our culture so that it is OK to ask for help.”

She also proposes that, due to the caring nature of the occupation and high client expectations, members of the profession routinely put work and animal welfare ahead of their own needs and that, in order for there to be wider cultural change, individuals need to change their own attitudes towards asking for help.

This includes the discussion of ‘taboo subjects’ such as suicide.

“Perhaps all of us have to start trying to change our culture to one that is more accepting and supportive and looks out for those in need even when they aren’t able to reach out themselves”, she writes.

She writes following the December 2014 launch of our Mind Matters Initiative, which aims to change the culture of the profession by reducing stigma surrounding mental ill-health and encouraging more open discussion.

This month’s Vet Futures poll asks: “Could you recognise the signs of mental ill-health in a colleague?” and we would encourage members of the profession to take part in the poll so that we can better understand attitudes towards and experiences of mental health issues.

Meanwhile, December’s poll had asked “Do you think your veterinary education prepared you for running a business?” for which the majority (84%) said “no”, with just 3% saying “yes” and 13% saying “partially”.

For confidential support members of the profession can call the Vet Helpline on 0303 040 2551 where calls are answered 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who have experience of the profession. Alternatively, they can use a confidential email service which can be accessed through the Vet Helpline website.

Two people chatting

New mental health initiative launched

We are today launching the Mind Matters Initiative, to help address mental health and wellbeing issues within the veterinary profession.

“Mental Health is a significant issue for the veterinary profession. Most of us have experience of colleagues or ourselves having problems. The Mind Matters Initiative is a pan-profession project, and I am very pleased that there is active engagement from across the various veterinary associations and stakeholders,” says Neil Smith, RCVS Vice-President and Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative.

“The RCVS already contributes through our Health Protocol and support of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund. The Mind Matters Initiative seeks to work more proactively by increasing the accessibility and acceptance of support, encouraging a culture that is better equipped to talk and deal with stress and related mental health issues, and, ultimately, by helping to reduce such triggers within the profession.”

It takes real courage to reach out for help when you’re struggling, and we know it can be especially tough for vets.

Rosie Allister

The first Mind Matters Initiative action is providing funding to ensure that callers to the Vet Helpline, a completely confidential support service which is part of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund and run by volunteers, are put directly through to a person, rather than having to leave a message.

“We are able to offer confidential, non-judgemental support to many vets, VNs, vet students and members of their families who call us in distress, but we know there are more who are put off by the prospect of leaving a message,” says Rosie Allister, Chair of Vet Helpline.

“It takes real courage to reach out for help when you’re struggling, and we know it can be especially tough for vets. Although we respond to calls quickly, callers need to speak to someone immediately, and not a message system, when they are in crisis.

“Through the Mind Matters Initiative funding we are able to put in place a service that connects a caller directly to a human being, which could make a real difference for people who call.”

The new Vet Helpline system will be in place on 22 December, in time for Christmas, which can be a difficult time for many people. The Vet Helpline number is 0303 040 2551 and there is also a confidential email service, accessible via vetlife.org.uk.

The Mind Matters Initiative will be sustained over an initial three-year period, and will include five streams of activity:

  • Learning and understanding best practice – research within the veterinary profession, for example, into occupational stress factors; and among other related professions and private and public sector organisations that have successfully tackled similar issues
  • Changing the culture – a programme of communications activities to help generate a positive environment for discussion, reduce stigma, increase awareness and the ability to identify risks, and encourage help-seeking behaviour
  • Intervention: personal level – financial and other support for existing services, such as Vet Helpline and Veterinary Surgeons Health Support Programme, together with an investigation into what more may be required to support those in need
  • Intervention: supporting the supporters – training and guidance for those who may be working or living with someone who needs assistance, in order to help supporters spot and understand signs of stress and mental illness, and help the person seek expert help
  • Making changes – working closely with the joint RCVS/British Veterinary Association Vet Futures project to help identify aspects of how the profession is structured and run (from student to retirement) that exacerbate stress and mental health problems – and consider how they may be addressed

The Mind Matters Initiative is supported by a group comprising the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, the British Veterinary Association, the British Veterinary Nursing Association, the Veterinary Practice Management Association, the Veterinary Schools Council, the Veterinary Defence Society and the Association of Veterinary Students.