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Race Together Veterinary Survey UK 2021

MMI-funded survey to investigate experiences of racism in the veterinary sector launches

A landmark Mind Matters-funded survey investigating the experiences of racism and the impact it has on the mental wellbeing of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people working or studying in the UK veterinary sector was launched on Tuesday 19 January.

The group of researchers leading the project are calling for as many participants as possible to get involved to help shape evidence-based interventions to promote diversity and wellbeing within the profession.

The project is funded by the RCVS Minds Matters Initiative’s Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, which was set up in honour of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown who tragically passed away in 2017, with the aim of funding research focusing on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession.

Led by Dr Victoria Crossley at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Navaratnam Partheeban, co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society (BVEDS), the survey is being conducted by researchers from the RVC, BVEDS, Oxford Brookes University and London South Bank University.

The ‘Race Together’ survey – open for participation until 31 March 2021 – will examine both overt and ‘everyday racism’ in the veterinary profession. This includes systemic, commonplace interactions with people, services or systems that intentionally or unintentionally leaves individuals feeling racially judged in a covert or deniable way.

The survey is open to all BAME people working or studying in any part of the UK veterinary sector. This could include staff working in general and referral practices (including vets, veterinary nurses and support staff), staff and students working in vet schools, and those working within veterinary industry, government veterinary departments and veterinary charities.

Previous studies have shown that everyday racism is associated with negative effects on mental health and wellbeing. Despite concerns around poor wellbeing and mental health in the veterinary profession there has been little formal research investigating the impact of racism on mental wellbeing in the UK’s sector to date. 

The project’s Principal Investigators, Dr Victoria Crossley (RVC) and Navaratnam Partheeban (BVEDS), are urging BAME people working or studying in any part of the UK veterinary sector to take part:

“This anonymous survey is open to all Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people working or studying in the veterinary sector, not only vets and veterinary nurses, and we would like to encourage people to take part and tell us about their experiences of racism, however ‘major or minor’.

“We hope that our project will increase awareness and understanding of the issues that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people experience while working or studying in the UK veterinary profession, and our findings will be used to inform the design of evidence-based interventions to promote diversity and wellbeing, and the monitoring of their effectiveness.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, said:

“We are very glad to be able to support this important project, the first of its kind to look at the mental health impact of racism and discrimination in the veterinary professions.

“Diversity, equality and inclusion is a key strategic priority for the RCVS and hopefully this study will help identify some of the barriers and negative experiences that impact Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic veterinary professionals and develop the appropriate interventions both to tackle discrimination and improve mental health outcomes.”

Potential participants interested in taking part can access the survey and find further information here.

Mental Health Awareness Training 2020

MMI holding new awareness courses for all members of the veterinary team

We will be holding two mental health awareness courses in December to help members of the veterinary team better understand mental ill-health and how to intervene if it is affecting colleagues.

The two online courses, which are led by Trevor Bell, an experienced mental health trainer and campaigner, will take place on Tuesday 15 December between 10am and 1pm and Thursday 17 December between 2pm and 5pm. Additional dates will also be released in 2021.

The half-day courses will look at issues such as awareness around the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems; whether members of the team could spot the early warning signs of distress, anxiety and depression amongst colleagues; and whether members of the team feel they would be able to talk to colleagues exhibiting these symptoms.

Lisa Quigley, RCVS Mind Matters Manager, explains: “We recognise that this year has brought additional stresses and strains to both our professional and personal life. As a result, it is extra important that members of the veterinary team look out for one another and are able to recognise when someone may be experiencing mental distress.

“Just like physical health, we all have mental health which affects how we think, feel, and act and that, in any given year, one in four of us will experience some kind of problem with our mental health, with research showing that these numbers are even higher for members of the veterinary team.

“I do hope all members of the veterinary team can take part in this training which, thanks to subsiding from the Mind Matters Initiative, costs just £15 per person.”

Those with any further questions can contact Lisa Quigley on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk

Two tone Illustration of equine vet and horse

RCVS Mind Matters and BEVA launch short film to support equine vet mental health

To coincide with this year’s World Mental Health Day we have joined forces with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) to raise awareness of the mental health and wellbeing challenges facing equine veterinary surgeons, and to offer advice and support.

On 10 October 2020, MMI and BEVA will launch a short animated film featuring a typical ‘day in the life’ of a young equine veterinary surgeon, the highs and lows that such a day might encompass, and some simple measures to support good mental health.

Co-produced by our two organisations, the film depicts both the undeniable sense of accomplishment equine vets experience, for example, when saving a life or getting a tricky mare in foal, and the highly stressful days where things don’t go as well, despite best efforts.

The film goes on to suggest a number of simple changes equine vets can incorporate into their day to help maintain a healthy work-life balance, some practical ways to make the most challenging days more manageable, and general good practice to help equine veterinary professionals keep things in perspective.

Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, says: “Well-established research has shown that veterinary professionals across multiple sectors are at a higher risk of serious psychological distress and suicide. There is also evidence, however, that implementing mechanisms to help vets cope with work-related stressors, as well as reducing barriers to them seeking mental health support, may well reduce these risks.

“We’re therefore very pleased to be launching this animation for World Mental Health Day 2020. Over the past few years, the increased focus on mental health and wellbeing amongst veterinary professionals has led to a greater understanding that if we, as vets, consistently implement small changes to our day, it can have a significant positive impact on our lives.

“Just simple things like listening to a podcast when driving to calls, calling a friend or colleague for a chat, and making time to stop for lunch, can increase our resilience and help us put things in perspective.”

Lucy Grieve, President of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), says: “For most equine vets, most of the time, the job is fantastic – for many, it’s the only career we ever imagined ourselves pursuing. But some of us feel we should always be perfect, which can have a negative impact, particularly when things don’t go to plan.

“Recognising that perfection is not always achievable is crucial in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, whilst still striving for a fulfilling career. We know that, increasingly, equine vets receive some support from colleagues and mentors in practice, but this animation provides a few suggestions of small changes that everyone can make to help gain perspective. It’s not rocket science, or a magic wand, but there is strong evidence that small consistent changes can really help.”  

The animation also includes information about the support resources available from Mind Matters, as well as contact details for the veterinary community support charity, Vetlife, and encourages vets to make use of the support available as early as possible.

The animation will be available to watch and share on MMI, BEVA and RCVS websites and social media channels from Saturday 10 October. Any practices wishing to obtain a high-resolution version to use for training purposes should contact MMI Manager Lisa Quigley at l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk.

Susan Dawson

World Mental Health Day 2020: Reflections on the last five years

Susan Dawson, Mind Matters Initiative Chair

Today marks world Mental Health Day, with a theme of ‘mental health for all’. It presents an opportune moment to reflect on the last five years of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative, and to look ahead at what’s next for us. MMI recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, and although we weren’t able to hold the planned celebration due to the pandemic, we held a webinar hosted by The Webinar Vet to celebrate the milestone and look back on some of our achievements.

Since its launch in 2015, one of the core activities of MMI has been raising awareness of mental health in the professions, giving people the tools to stay well, seek help and look after themselves and others. Our Mental Health Awareness training is central to this, with over 1700 vets, vet nurses and practice staff attending our sessions over the last five years. We’ve also teamed up with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), whose generous support has allowed us to deliver both mental health awareness training, and a series of successful resilience training sessions, equipping delegates with the tools to successful navigate the challenges of veterinary practice.

With support from experts from inside the veterinary community and beyond, we’ve delivered an array of webinars on a wide number of topics relating to mental health and wellbeing, including mindfulness, sleep, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, self-harm, anxiety, and managing remotely during Covid-19. Following feedback from the professions we’ve got plans for further webinars addressing topics like neurodiversity and men’s mental health.

Working with and for students is a vital part of what MMI does. We want to make sure that our veterinary and veterinary nursing students are well supported, and that they have the skills and resilience to thrive as they move into practice. MMI regularly sponsors student-led  activities and research, like the recent study into exercise and wellbeing carried out by students at Nottingham University. We also sponsor students to run the ever-popular Failure Friday events – where they can hear about the less successful moments of more experienced members of the profession, and learn that everybody makes mistakes – it’s how we learn and move on from them that counts.

Last year we ran our first ever student roundtable, which was a fantastic opportunity for veterinary schools and students to come together and learn from each other about what works in student support, and where there are still gaps. This year we will be replicating this event for student nurses – although it will need to be held online due to the ongoing coronavirus situation. We’ve also been delighted to support VetKind, a facilitated online space run in collaboration with the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) and Jenny Moffett of SkillsTree, where students can learn about and reflect on mental health and wellbeing.

Since our launch we have hosted two successful veterinary mental health research symposiums which have provided opportunities for us to learn from the existing evidence base and think about where there remain gaps to be filled. We have also committed to making an annual research grant in memory of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown, who sadly died in 2017. This year we made not one, but two grants totalling £40,000, which will be looking at moral injury and racism respectively –  both timely and important topics for the professions.

Right now is a difficult time for the professions, with the pandemic creating challenges for all of us and affecting everything about how we live, work and socialise. Now, more than ever, it’s so important to look after ourselves and each other. Over the last six months we’ve delivered a number of webinars on topics relating to Covid-19 and have also published a comprehensive A-Z of Help providing tips and resources that will be useful during the pandemic. With many of us working remotely, isolation can be a problem and so have introduced online ‘Reflection Time’ sessions, providing a space for members of the veterinary community to come together and reflect on different topics relating to the emotional aspects of their job. As the pandemic continues, with things remaining uncertain, we’ll be looking at more ways we can support the veterinary community.

Today, to mark World Mental Health Day, I’m delighted to share an animation we have developed in collaboration with British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), which addresses mental health and wellbeing among equine vets. We are also publishing a new &Me story from vet James Glass, who has generously shared his experiences with us. Keep an eye on our Twitter page, where we’ll be using today to highlight some of our resources and achievements.