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”.