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MMI launches free, online mental health training programme for rural vets

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will be working with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England to deliver a free, online training programme for vets in isolated and rural areas across the UK, as well as vets working in ambulatory practice.

The training programme has been launched in recognition of some of the challenges that rural and ambulatory vets face, particularly around isolation and loneliness. This programme aims to form a network of UK-wide rural Mental Health First Aiders in the vet profession starting with rural geographies. It will bolster the understanding of common mental health conditions, help individuals identify signs of mental ill-health both in themselves and others, promote self-care and provide the tools for how to effectively support people experiencing poor mental health.

Angharad Belcher, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “Veterinary surgeons working in rural and ambulatory services are often integral members of their local communities with a deep connection with farmers, animal owners and the wider rural community. However, as MMI-funded research conducted by Scotland’s Rural College with vets has demonstrated, veterinary work in such areas can often be very challenging which is compounded by working alone or having relatively limited contact with professional colleagues.

“Effective early intervention in cases of mental ill-health and distress can have significant impacts, and so this course will arm participants with the relevant knowledge of how to identify mental health issues and will allow them to signpost people to the most effective and relevant sources of help.”

Vicki Cockman, Head of Client Delivery at MHFA England, said: “It is wonderful to see the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s commitment to reaching all its vets in the UK, no matter their location. MHFA England is proud to be working with RCVS on this initiative. Our evidence based Mental Health First Aid training gives people an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing.

“This approach will help vets support the communities that they work closely with and help them manage their own mental health. Those trained will have the confidence to start a conversation, reassure and support a person in distress and the tools to create and consider their own self-care strategies.”

The free training, fully funded by MMI, will be delivered online in four sessions which are each two-and-a-half hours long. They require around 90 mins of work beforehand and the groups will be split into morning and afternoon sessions, both receiving the same training. MMI will be announcing its plans for a rural network shortly and welcomes all veterinary professionals with mental health first aid training, regardless of training provider, to join it.

The dates of the training sessions are Monday 11, Tuesday 12, Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 July. Registrations to join the course need to be made by the 5pm Friday 17 June and can be made via the MMI training page. For those who are unsure about joining the course, MHFA England has organised an online question and answers session ahead of the application date at 7pm on Tuesday 7 June. To attend the Q & A contact Lacey Pitcher, Mind Matters Outreach and Engagement Senior Officer on l.pitcher@rcvs.org.uk.

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MMI and VMG announce joint initiative to train veterinary managers on mental health in the workplace

A new joint training initiative from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and the Veterinary Management Group (VMG) will aim to educate veterinary leaders and managers on mental health in the workplace.

The collaboration will be delivered by the VMG’s online learning platform and can either be taken as a free standalone module, or as a module for those already undertaking VMG’s accredited veterinary leadership and management qualifications.

The module will be delivered via online resources and reading materials and two case study-based online workshops delivered by Mind Matters Manager Lisa Quigley to consolidate and contextualise the online learning materials. The first workshop will cover the Equality Act, mental health and reasonable adjustments, while the second will cover return to work for those who have taken time off due to mental ill-health and how to plan for their continued safety and wellness.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, explains: “We’re very thankful to VMG for integrating our mental health training materials onto their online platform and in their popular courses. Attitudes and behaviours towards colleagues with mental ill-health are influenced by those at the top. Direct line managers play an absolutely crucial role in our wellbeing and mental health, therefore equipping managers with these tools is an essential part in improving and supporting the mental health of the veterinary workforce.

“If veterinary managers and leaders have been trained in legal obligations and how to properly support colleagues and reintegrate them back into working life, then we can hopefully see a culture shift throughout the professions to make a place where veterinary professionals can continue to work and indeed thrive as veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.”

The standalone module is expected to be launched soon – if anyone wants to express an interest in taking part in the module they can contact Hannah Perrin, VMG Learning & Development Manager, on hannah.perrin@vetmg.com or visit the MMI training page.

Further information about the VMG’s veterinary leadership and management course, visit the VMG website.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 - hand extended to sitting person illustration

MMI marks Mental Health Awareness Week with Creative Connections Competition

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) is marking this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week with the launch of a competition about how we can remain connected with ourselves and others through the power of creativity.

Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 9 to Sunday 15 May 2022) was founded by the Mental Health Foundation 21 years ago and is an annual event to help focus the conversation around mental health on a particular issue that is affecting the nation’s mental health and how it can be alleviated.

This year’s theme is loneliness, an issue that has been recently exacerbated by the pandemic, and will look at the relationship between loneliness and mental ill-health and how making connections with other people and within communities is key to tackling the problem.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, MMI will be focussing on the importance of community, togetherness, and meaningful connections for tackling loneliness within the veterinary community.

Want to get involved?

After the success of MMI’s Mental Health Awareness Week nature photo competition last year, it will be launching another creative contest this year to raise awareness of the impacts of loneliness and the ways in which the veterinary community can come together to tackle it.

The competition, running until Friday 3 June, is open to all members of the veterinary team and will be centred around the theme of Creative Connections. Photographs, artwork, creative writing, or any other media that demonstrates how creativity and ingenuity can bring people together are all welcome. Those who wish to enter the competition should email their entry to the MMI team at info@vetmindmatters.org, along with a short explanation about the submission, what connection means to them and why it is important for their mental health and wellbeing.

Lisa Quigley, MMI Manager, said: “It is important to remember that loneliness is not necessarily about physical isolation, it is about feeling disconnected emotionally and socially from the world around us even if we are in a crowded room or working a busy shift at a veterinary practice. Covid has significantly added to what’s called by some a ‘loneliness epidemic’, and other factors such as stress, tiredness and lack of confidence or low self-esteem, as well as living with mental health conditions or poor emotional wellbeing, can all add to feelings of loneliness.

“Finding creative ways of forging new connections outside of our usual routines – whether it’s taking up a new or existing hobby or finding a way of talking to people who may be feeling similar – is vital to tackling loneliness. I really look forward to seeing this year’s submissions from the professions and hope that the participation of us and others in this year’s events help people realise they are not alone.”

In addition to the competition, on Thursday 12 May, MMI will be bringing its popular spring 2022 series of Campfire Chats to a close with a Mental Health Awareness Week special, ‘Tackling Loneliness in a Hyperconnected World.’

MMI will also be releasing a short collection of blogs, featuring a range of guest writers from across the veterinary professions, who will be sharing their thoughts on loneliness, the importance of coming together, and their favourite ways of keeping connected.

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New collaboration to empower vet nurses to challenge incivility and encourage sustainable changes in the workplace

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has collaborated with VetLed, a leading provider of Human Factors skills training for veterinary professionals and the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), to lead a series of initiatives that aim to tackle incivility in the workplace and encourage work environments that make employee wellbeing a priority.

The recently launched Civility Training sessions are the first activities of this collaboration that explore how civility can be addressed in the workplace and the impacts that incivility can have across the whole veterinary team. The training was launched in response to MMI research into Student Vet Nurses, which revealed that 96% of student and recently graduated veterinary nurses said that they believed that incivility and bullying were serious problems in the profession.

As well as civility training, MMI and BVNA have collaborated with VetLed on the forthcoming “VetLed Safe to Speak Up campaign” which will launch on 2 May. The campaign aims to empower all members of the veterinary team to talk openly about their mistakes, concerns and new ideas by raising awareness of the importance of psychological safety. Psychological safety is the belief that there won’t be negative repercussions as a result of vocalising thoughts, ideas or concerns, and is an incredibly beneficial value for practices to adopt. Safe to Speak Up will include social media campaign that raises awareness of the benefits of psychological safety and provides advice for how workplaces and individuals can apply psychological safety in their practice.

The Safe to Speak Up campaign will also feature a day of interactive workshops focussed on psychological safety. Taking place on 11 May, the day will include free-to-attend sessions from VetLed that will explain what psychological safety is and how it can be created and maintained in practice. You can book your workshop place here.

The third part of the collaboration will include a series of four Veterinary Nurse Think Tanks; 90-minute interactive learning and discussion sessions that cover key Human Factor themes. The upcoming free workshops include:

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “We have listened carefully to the feedback from our surveys and consultations to ensure we continue to deliver resources that tackle the wellbeing issues that VNs have concerns about. We are pleased to have partnered with two brilliant organisations that are as passionate about improving the mental health and resilience of the profession as we are. Every single vet nurse should feel comfortable and psychologically supported in their role, and we hope that the training and awareness campaigns that we are running over the upcoming year will ensure that more VNs will feel empowered to talk about their mental health and wellbeing at work.”

Alex Taylor, BVNA President, said: “The BVNA are so pleased to be part of the Civility Training, Think Tanks, and Safe to Speak Up Campaign, especially as these fall in line with our current theme of ‘building resilience’. We recognise how important the mental health of veterinary nurses is, not just for their own wellbeing, but for the good of the workforce too. We are very much looking forward to working alongside MMI and Vetled who will help to provide support and guidance on these important areas for veterinary nurses over the next year.”

Helen Silver-MacMahon, Research and Development Director at VetLed, said: “VetLed are delighted to be collaborating with MMI and BNVA to ensure that all members of the veterinary team are able to access training which promotes the importance of civility and psychological safety in practice and enables them to feel and function at their best. We look forward to running four, very special, Think Tanks for veterinary nurses over the coming year and raising awareness of how Human Factors can empower veterinary nurses to lead positive and practical change in practice.”

Visit the MMI Training Page for more on MMI Training offerings and to book onto a VetLed Civility Training session.