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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.