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Become a Mental Health First Aider with MMI

This October, we are once again offering veterinary professionals the opportunity to become Mental Health First Aiders to help support the mental health of their friends and colleagues. 

There are currently two different courses being made available – one open course for all within the professions (delivered and certified by Mental Health First Aid England), and one for those specifically living or working in Northern Ireland (delivered by the Northern Ireland depression charity, Aware). Online courses for veterinary professionals living and working specifically in Wales and Scotland will be made available in early 2025. All courses will be partially subsidised by MMI and cost £95 per person for the two days. 

Both courses will run for two full days and will take place online, on Tuesday 8 October and Tuesday 15 October from approximately 9am to 5pm. The courses are open to all members of the veterinary professions, including veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, students, receptionists and practice managers. Upon completion, participants will become fully certified Mental Health First Aiders. 

MMI Lead, Rapinder Newton, said: “Having already successfully run an in-person Mental Health First Aid course earlier in the year, we were keen to provide greater accessibility by bringing the course online and opening it up to more members of the professions across all four home nations. 

“The course is ideal for individuals looking to gain the knowledge and skills to spot signs of people experiencing poor mental health, to be confident in starting a conversation with someone who might be struggling, and to learn how to signpost to appropriate support.

“The course is ideal for individuals looking to gain the knowledge and skills to spot signs of people experiencing poor mental health, to be confident in starting a conversation with someone who might be struggling, and to learn how to signpost to appropriate support.” 

“As our network of veterinary Mental Health First Aiders continues to grow, we are proud to see the impact that is being had – the more veterinary professionals we can support to become Mental Health First Aiders, the more people will be able to easily access support as and when they need it most.” 

Anyone wishing to find out more or to sign up to attend the course to become a certified Mental Health First Aider should do so by visiting our events page, where both courses are listed. Alternatively, you can head directly to the dedicated Eventbrite pages for both the open course and the Northern Ireland course. Please note that there are limited places available on the courses, so it is advisable to book early to avoid disappointment. Registrations close at 11.59pm BST on 9 September 2024, or once the courses are full.   

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Veterinary professionals invited to attend free self-compassion webinar

We are inviting veterinary professionals to attend a free online webinar about self-compassion, presented by previous Mind Matters research grant recipient Dr Katherine Wakelin, Clinical Psychologist, and supported by Sarah Corthorne, trainee Clinical Psychologist.

The online webinar, taking place from 7-8pm on Tuesday 3 September 2024, will discuss the importance of self-compassion and provide an overview of Katherine and Sarah’s research which involved conducting a randomised control trial to investigate the effectiveness of an online compassion focused therapy (CFT) intervention in improving the mental wellbeing of veterinary professionals. There will also be an opportunity for delegates to ask both Katherine and Sarah any questions they may have.

Following the success of their research intervention, their online CFT course will also be made freely available on our website and on the RCVS YouTube channel for those working in the veterinary professions. Katherine and Sarah will go into more detail about how to get the most out of the course in their webinar.

Mind Matters Project Lead, Rapinder Newton, said: “We are really looking forward to running this webinar alongside Katherine and Sarah. Their research into the effectiveness of CFT in veterinary professionals has been of vital importance and we hope it will go on to help lots of people.

“We would like to thank Katherine and Sarah for all their hard work and dedication and for their generosity in allowing us to platform their CFT course for free on our website.”

Dr Katherine Wakelin, said: “Our recent randomised control trial has shown the course to significantly improve resilience and self-compassion and reduce rumination and self-criticism amongst veterinarians. Therefore, Sarah and I are delighted to now be disseminating the CFT course freely to the veterinary professions, so that as many people are able to benefit from the evidence-based resource as possible.

“Even though our research was conducted on veterinary surgeons, we hope that the course will be useful to all those working in the veterinary team as the content can be applied in a number of contexts.

“Our webinar will explain more about our research, as well as some of the science behind the effectiveness of the course in a veterinary context. So, if you are interested in learning more about how CFT may be able to help you and your team, both in a personal and professional capacity, please do come along.”

Katherine and Sarah’s compassion focused therapy course will be made available on the Mind Matters website in due course. In order to access the online compassion course, individuals are invited to complete a short questionnaire before and after watching one 10-15 minute video each day for 14 days, with the aim of the video intervention being to develop self-compassion skills and reduce self-criticism.

To sign up for the webinar, please register via our events page.

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Practising VNs invited to participate in SVN mental health research project

Our Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant recipients for 2023 are currently collecting data on how mental health education is integrated into the curriculum of student veterinary nurses (SVNs). Having now reached the second stage of recruitment for the project, the researchers are looking for veterinary nurses (VNs) who are currently working in practice to participate in an interview.

The project is being led by Dr Faye Didymus and Dr Jackie Hargreaves from Leeds Beckett University and will culminate in a set of evidence-based recommendations for how mental health education for veterinary students could be enhanced.

Dr Hargreaves said: “As part of our project we have already explored the curriculum of accredited veterinary nursing courses for mental health content, but we would love to know more about current VN experiences of mental health in the workforce, and how mental health could be integrated into the curriculum of degrees and diplomas. This will include an interview, lasting approximately 60 minutes, about confidence in their practical skills, coping with work stress, and discussion about how to prepare students for the workplace.

“We are seeking VNs who are currently working in practice who have thoughts and ideas about how to further integrate mental health into the veterinary nursing curriculum. If you fit into this category, we would be very grateful if you could take the time to participate in our study. There is currently little research in this area, and we hope that the outcomes of our project will make a real tangible difference to the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary nurses both throughout their studies and in the long term when they enter the workforce.

“Faye and I would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has already supported our research project, and we look forward to hearing about the ideas and experiences of current practising veterinary nurses.”

For further information about the interview, please contact either Dr Hargreaves at j.hargreaves@leedsbeckett.ac.uk, or research assistant Jen Rawson at jennifer.rawson@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Please note, recruitment for interviews will close Saturday 7 September.

Takeaways from the Titanic Vet Show

On Friday 24 May and Saturday 25 May 2024, Dr Kate Richards, Chair of our Mind Matters Taskforce, and Dr Sue Paterson, RCVS President, attended the Titanic Vet Show (a non-clinical CPD and mental health charity fundraiser), where they spoke about the work of MMI and ‘strategic approaches to supporting mental health within the veterinary team’. In this blog post, Kate shares her reflections from the day.

Two days at the Titanic Vet Show in Belfast at the weekend was an uplifting experience with lots of opportunities to learn, connect and collaborate. I have returned home with practical tips and techniques, knowledge to reflect upon as well as connections to follow up. The past few years have presented a number of challenges to society such as the Covid pandemic, Brexit and the cost of living crisis.

The veterinary community has been impacted by these broader societal challenges in addition to issues specifically related to our professions such as workforce shortages, XL Bullies, the Competition and Markets Authority report, medicine shortages in Northern Ireland and incursion of diseases such as avian influenza, Bluetongue and Brucella canis. Despite all these challenges there are strategic approaches which can help support mental health and build resilience. At the conference,

I gave a presentation which included two case studies. RCVS President Dr Sue Paterson took the audience through the first case study of a young Clumber Spaniel presenting with severe otitis externa, who was unresponsive to therapy, and whose owners were unable to afford further treatment. I then presented the second case of a four-year-old pregnant XL Bully whose last two litters had been delivered by caesarian. Both cases sparked discussions about moral injury where the vet might feel they were not able to do what they believed was the right thing and so felt frustrated, angry, guilty and powerless. Strategic approaches to support vets included ethical conversations with the team in deciding how to proceed with a case for better decisions, contextualised care to facilitate a partnership between the owner and vet ensuring the best outcome for the patient, establishing regular Schwartz rounds, and the development of practice policies to provide practitioners with a working framework.

Incivility in the workplace is an increasing issue and research from the medical profession demonstrates that incivility, whether verbal or non-verbal, can negatively impact patient outcomes. In addition, these behaviours can adversely impact mental health and wellbeing and team functioning dynamics. Civil work environments matter because they reduce errors, reduce stress and foster excellence. You can find out more about why civility matters on the Civility Saves Lives website.

The mental health and wellbeing theme was woven throughout the two days of the show, as it is inextricably linked to healthy, productive and empowered veterinary professionals. MMI has a number of resources including a guide to enhancing wellbeing in the workplace, a neurodiversity resource hub and collection of webinars. The RCVS Academy, available to all RCVS registrants, provides free CPD on a broad range of topics such as informed consent, complaint handling and unconscious bias. What remains for me, is to record and reflect on two days of brilliant talks and debate, practicing some deep belly breathing and remembering that self care is one pillar of support alongside my knowledge, experience and network of connections.

Dr Faye Didymus and Dr Jackie Hargreaves

VN educators invited to participate in SVN mental health research project

Our Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant recipients for 2023 are currently collecting data on how mental health education is integrated into curricular for student veterinary nurses. They are looking for course leaders and tutors to complete a short survey, with a further option for an interview, to help inform their research.

The project is being led by Dr Faye Didymus and Dr Jackie Hargreaves from Leeds Beckett University and will culminate in a set of evidence-based recommendations for how mental health education for veterinary students could be enhanced.

Dr Hargreaves said: “As part of our project we have reviewed available information on mental health and wellbeing on accredited course websites but are keen to explore this further. We are asking those with responsibility for delivering accredited veterinary nursing education what they currently do to help enhance the mental health and wellbeing of their students. This will include a short survey and will ask questions about: student confidence in their academic and practical skills, coping with stress both at university and for life in practice, self-regulation, and self-management.

“We are seeking participation from course leaders, directors, and tutors who are working on accredited degrees and diplomas in UK further education and higher education. If you meet these criteria, we would be very grateful if you could take the time to participate in our study. There is currently little research in this area, and we hope that the outcomes of our project will make tangible differences to the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary nurses both throughout their studies and in the long term when they enter the workforce.

“Faye and I would like to thank everyone who has already taken the time to complete the survey and we look forward to hearing from as many veterinary nursing educators as possible.”

For further information and the survey, please follow the link: Mental Health for Veterinary Nurses Survey.

The survey will close on Friday 31 May 2024.

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Join our Movement and Mental Health Campfire Chat for Mental Health Awareness Week

This year, we’re set to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (13 May – 19 May 2024) with a Campfire Chat special, based on this year’s theme of ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’.

Our campfire chats, which are currently in their fifth series, aim to bring together members of the veterinary community for an informal delve into the themes and topics that matter most to them. Open to all within the veterinary professions, these free online panel sessions offer a chance to pause, reflect and learn from each other’s experiences of navigating life, work, learning and mental health.

This Mental Health Awareness Week special will be hosted by MMI Director, Angharad Belcher, with three expert panel guests. These are:

  • Dr Jackie Hargreaves – Jackie is a Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Health Psychology within the Carnegie School of Sport at Leeds Beckett University. She is also a Health and Care Professions Council registered Health Psychologist, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), and a British Psychological Society Chartered Psychologist. Alongside her teaching, she undertakes research into how physical activity impacts on the mental health of a variety of different populations.
  • Dani Peacock RVN – Dani is a RVN and yoga teacher who believes that understanding resilience and learning how to build it on a physiological and psychological level is vital to a satisfying veterinary career. With the help of The Prince’s Trust and Yoga in Healthcare Alliance (YIHA), Dani hopes to make this dream a reality in 2024, by bringing an evidence-based course, already offered to NHS staff, to veterinary businesses and educational institutions. 
  • Liz Barton MRCVS – Liz has enjoyed a varied clinical career, including mixed practice, a small animal internship, small animal practice, ECC and shelter medicine. After becoming increasingly concerned about the wellbeing challenges in the industry, Liz started the WellVet initiative to provide resources to help support the health of mind, body and soul for veterinary teams. Exercise has been key to supporting Liz’s own wellbeing, though she has had to adapt and change this over time to fit around health and life. Liz has written and spoken extensively to varied audiences on wellbeing, women’s health and parenting in the profession.

Angharad said: “We’ve got some fantastic guests lined up for our Mental Health Awareness Week Campfire Chat special, and we look forward to welcoming as many people from the veterinary community as possible.

“In the chat, we will be discussing the concept of movement and physical activity, how we can make space for movement in relation to our daily lives and routines, and why being more active, both at home and at work, can have a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

“’For many of us, incorporating movement into our daily lives can be challenging. Whether this be due to time, energy or physical constraints. We are therefore keen to explore how movement can be integrated into all of our lives in an inclusive manner. All movement makes a difference, no matter how big or small. It’s about finding a balance and what works for you on an individual level.

“All movement makes a difference, no matter how big or small. It’s about finding a balance and what works for you on an individual level.”

“As with all of our campfire chats, this session is free to attend and will take place online via Zoom in order to make it as accessible as possible. So please do join us for what we hope will be a very insightful, supportive and uplifting online gathering.

“Throughout the week, we will also be sharing tips and advice on how you can help support your mental health through movement across our social media channels.”

The Movement and Mental Health Campfire Chat will take place online from 7pm to 8pm on Thursday 16 May. To book your place and find out more, please visit our events page.

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Stress Awareness Month: Spotting the signs and management

In our previous blog, we talked about the concept of stress, and recognised it as a normal human response to demands placed upon us. This week will focus on spotting signs of stress and what we can do to manage it.  

Stress can often affect us both from a physical and emotional perspective. In response to stress, the human body can react in a number of ways (e.g. physical and emotional), particularly in relation to the hormones produced. While we may notice some signs, often many will not be widely recognisable. The mental health charity Mind have a useful section which focuses on signs and symptoms of stress.

Managing stress as individuals 

To help manage your own stress, it’s good to know what might trigger your stress response, how you experience it and what healthy coping mechanisms you can utilise to support yourself through practising self-care. You can explore this through Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s interactive online resource MHFA Stress Container

Managing stress in the workplace 

Stress in the workplace can be particularly challenging given that we spend more than half our life in work, and it is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in the workplace (CIPD, 2023). Whilst we should try to maintain and practice good self-care, employers have a large role to play as they are required by law as part of their ‘duty of care’ to take certain steps to address and manage stress in the workplace. In particular under the:  

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; and​
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.  

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) Management Standards also identify six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates. These are: 

  1. demands
  2. control
  3. support
  4. relationships
  5. role
  6. change 

If you’re experiencing stress in the workplace, it’s important to speak to someone, for example your manager. If you talk to them as soon as possible, it will give them the chance to help and stop the situation getting worse. There are times when you might not feel comfortable speaking to your manager, in which case you could speak with: 

  • A colleague or your trade union representative 
  • Your HR department 
  • Your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) 
  • ACAS 
  • Vetlife 

If you’re a manager or leader, take a look at some of these useful resources: 

  • The CIPD have produced a detailed guide on managing stress in the workplace: Guidance on managing stress at work;  and
  • the Health and Safety Executive have produced a Stress Talking Toolkit which you might find useful to help start conversations to identify causes of stress for your workers and identify possible solutions.   
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Stress Awareness Month: Let’s talk about stress

April is Stress Awareness Month – and provides us with a good opportunity to discuss a topic that impacts many of us. Throughout April, we will be sharing a range of information and resources to raise awareness of stress, reduce stigma and dispel myths, to help support veterinary professions to thrive in their roles. This week we will shed light on what is meant by stress and burnout – two terms which are used interchangeably.  

What do we mean by stress? 

Throughout our lives at home and at work, we can all experience different types of stress, which the World Health Organization (WHO) notes ‘is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives’. In responding to stress, the human body releases a number of hormones to help us cope or act. Interested in learning more about the science behind stress? Find out what happens to your body when you’re stressed

Whilst there are often negative connotations associated with stress, the stress curve diagram from MindWell illustrates that some forms of stress can actually be good for us. In fact, optimal stress (also called ‘eustress’) can help us to be motivated and perform at our best. Particularly where we have the ability to rally the necessary resources and support, to cope with demands placed upon us (e.g. to get a task done by a deadline, or intently focus on something). However when we experience excessive demands (whether they be physical, financial, moral or emotional), and we are not able to deploy resources to respond to them, stress can adversely affect our behaviour, relationships, productivity and health.  

A prolonged state of stress where the body continuously activates relevant systems to respond to demands can lead to emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, often referred to as ‘burnout’, common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and physical illness such as heart disease and high blood pressure. The recent Burnout Report from Mental Health UK (2024, pp.9) identified the prevalence in the UK with ‘9 in 10 adults experienced high or extreme stress in the past year’. Find out more, including recommendations to prevent burnout in the Mental Health UK The Burnout Report.  

It’s important to remember that every individual is different and their experience of pressures and demands, the resources and support they have to cope, and what can tip them from optimal to negative stress, will vary (as shown in the Stress Curve Diagram).  

At our fourth MMI Research Symposium in 2023, Dr Rebecca Smith, a lecturer in Veterinary Professional Development at Harper and Keele Veterinary School, discussed the top 10 stressors identified by vets and vet nurses, and how these stressors varied with experience. The report and video are now available to view. 

We’ll be sharing more resources over the next few weeks, including more information on how to spot the signs of stress, how we can manage stress, and what we can do to support ourselves and others. 

Dr Faye Didymus and Dr Jackie Hargreaves

Student and Registered Veterinary Nurses wanted to support research project into SVN mental health education

Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant recipients, Dr Faye Didymus and Dr Jackie Hargreaves, are looking for student veterinary nurses (SVNs), registered veterinary nurses (RVNs), and those who deliver diploma-route and degree route veterinary nursing curricular, to help support them in their research project into SVN mental health education.

The project aims to explore how mental health and wellbeing is integrated into the learning paths of SVNs, and will culminate in a set of evidence-based recommendations for how mental health education for veterinary nursing students could be enhanced.

As such, Dr Didymus and Dr Hargreaves, from Leeds Beckett University, are running a webinar through MMI to discuss their research findings to date and to offer an opportunity for attendees to contribute to the design and development of the second phase of their research, which will be essential for achieving the main outcome of their research project.

Rapinder Newton, MMI Project Lead, said: “Our Sarah Brown Mental Health Research grant has helped to fund six projects looking into various aspects of veterinary mental wellbeing, but this is the first to look specifically into veterinary nurse mental health.

“This is of vital importance, as much of the current research is either targeted towards vets or the vet team as a whole, as opposed to being nurse specific. We must do more to ensure that the entire veterinary team feel supported in their work and have the tools to maintain good mental health.

“It is fantastic to see Dr Hargreaves and Dr Didymus looking into early interventions to support SVN mental health from the start of their careers. This kind of research is vital in making positive change for the future, so if you are a current SVN, RVN or help deliver veterinary nursing programmes, then please do get involved.”

The webinar will be taking place online via Zoom on Tuesday 23 April 2024, from 10.30 – 11.30am.

Anybody interested in finding out more and contributing to the research can sign up to the webinar via the dedicated Eventbrite page.

For more information about the grant recipients and the project, visit the RCVS website.

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MMI to focus on moral injury, OCD and PTSD at BSAVA Congress 2024

As part of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress 2024, taking place from 21 to 23 March 2024, at the Manchester Central Convention Complex, Manchester, we will be running two streams based around moral stress, moral injury and psychological safety, as well as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Our first stream, taking place on Thursday 21 March from 10:30 to 17:00, is being held as part of the Wellbeing Programme, and will be centred around moral stress, moral injury, and psychological safety. This will include a mix of sessions, such as an introductive talk on the concepts of moral stress and injury, an introduction to veterinary mental health charity Vetlife, and a panel discussion exploring the role of ethical conversations in supporting yourself and your colleagues to navigate challenging events and experiences.

The second stream will take place on Friday 22 March from 09:10 to 17:40 and will be centred around obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this time as part of the BSAVA Scientific Programme. In this stream, delegates will explore the science behind OCD and PTSD and their impacts. As well as specific informative talks, this stream also includes two panel discussions centring around lived experience and workplace support for both OCD and PTSD.

Speaking about our congress sessions, new MMI Lead, Rapinder Newton, said: “When it comes to MMI, it is important that our work centres around the science, and that we are able to provide evidence-based information which will help to have a positive impact on the mental wellbeing of the professions.

“For BSAVA Congress, we have chosen two very specific themes for each of our streams, which both link into our new strategy which was published towards the end of last year.

“Firstly, we know there is a problem within the professions when it comes to moral stress and injury as shown by one of the research projects funded by our Sarah Brown Mental Health research grant back in 2020. There are also a lot of conversations in general surrounding this topic at the moment, for example, with the ban on XL bullies and the potential impacts that this could be having on the professions.

“Secondly, again, as part of our strategy, we are aiming to go beyond simply addressing wellbeing and delve deeper into the impacts of mental illness on those working in the veterinary professions. We are aiming to raise awareness of mental health conditions by providing expert evidence-based information in order to remove the stigma which still, sadly, is often attached to this.

“By delving into the science behind OCD and PTSD and bringing in clinical experts to talk about these topics, as well as integrating the stories of those with lived experience, we hope to challenge people’s potential misconceptions and widen the conversations around mental health, to ultimately improve the experiences of those experiencing these conditions and to help strengthen the workforce as a whole.”

The Mind Matters 5-year Strategy can be accessed on our resource page. For more on the findings of the Sarah Brown Research Project into moral injury within the veterinary professions, a summary of the talk given by researcher Dr Victoria Williamson can be found in the write up of our Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium 2023 on our resource page, as well as a video of the talk.

If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, there are many sources of support which you can reach out to: Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551, Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org. You can also contact your local GP or call NHS 111. If you are in crisis ring 999 or visit your local A&E department.

For more information on our activities at BSAVA, including a full break down of session times and locations, please visit the RCVS BSAVA Congress page.

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MMI releases Mind Matters Mental Health Symposium Report and videos

Today, 28 February 2024, we have released a report depicting the findings from the fourth Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium as well as videos of talks from the day.

The event, which took place on 10 October 2023 in Manchester, saw veterinary mental health researchers from across Europe come together to share their insights into a variety of areas of veterinary mental health including moral injury, suicide and suicide prevention, the impact of racism, veterinary nurse mental health, and workplace stressors for autistic veterinary professionals. There was a total of 77 attendees, including a mix of academic researchers and veterinary professionals.

The day was split into three main sections. The first portion of the day included a welcome address from Dr Kate Richards, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, followed by the keynote and plenary address from Dr Leah Quinlivan on ‘Evidence-based care for people who have self-harmed: risk prediction, psychosocial assessments and aftercare.’

The second portion of the day included talks from previous recipients of the Mind Matters Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, which was first set up in honour of former RCVS Council member and veterinary mental health advocate Sarah Brown. These research talks, which included research into topics spanning from the impact of racism on the mental health of veterinary professionals, to the impact of moral injury on UK veterinary professional wellbeing, were introduced by RCVS CEO and Mind Matters founder Lizzie Lockett.

After lunch, attention turned to quick fire research talks, where researchers from across the field of veterinary mental health research each had 15 minutes to take to the stage to present their projects. These talks provided insight into a range of important topics and included presentations from seasoned academics as well as those just starting out in their careers. These sessions were chaired by Angharad Belcher, Director for the Advancement of the Professions and of the Mind Matters Initiative.

To close the day, Angharad then took to the stage to talk about the work of MMI, including its newly published 5-year strategy and evaluation documents, before MMI Chair Dr Kate Richards closed the day’s proceedings with an outgoing address.

Angharad said: “The fourth Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium was a massively inspiring and insightful day. The field of veterinary mental health research is still relatively small so it remains of utmost importance that we continue to band together to share our knowledge on this subject, so that we can continue to learn and grow together and put these important learnings into practice.

“For us, it is vital that these new groundbreaking research projects are made available to all who want to learn more about helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those working within the veterinary professions. There is some truly fantastic work going on which provides us with hope that we can all continue to work together towards a brighter future.”

“For us, it is vital that these new groundbreaking research projects are made available to all who want to learn more about helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those working within the veterinary professions. There is some truly fantastic work going on which provides us with hope that we can all continue to work together towards a brighter future.

“There is no doubt that there is a long way to go, but improvement starts with education and research so I would urge anybody who is interested in what is being done to help improve and support the mental health of those working within the veterinary professions, and who is keen to help us keep these vital conversations going, to have a look through the report or access videos of the talks. It was a truly inspiring day with a lot of key takeaways.”

Anybody wishing to access the report or videos from the day can do so by visiting our resource page.

 If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, there are many sources of support which you can reach out to: Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551, Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org. You can also contact your local GP or call NHS 111. If you are in crisis ring 999 or visit your local A&E department.

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Join our online ‘Mind Yourself’ training programme

Join us for our new online ‘Mind Yourself’ training programme, designed to help individuals to improve and protect their mental health.

The three-part online virtual programme – open to all members of the veterinary professions including veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, students, receptionists, and practice managers – will be delivered by award winning mental health training charity Two Roads Charity. Sessions will be taking place on Zoom for three consecutive Mondays in April (Monday 8 April, Monday 15 April, and Monday 22 April) from 16:00 to 16:50pm.

Thanks to MMI subsidies, the entire programme costs £15 per person or £50 for a bulk practice purchase for four people.

MMI Lead, Rapinder Newton, said: “Being mentally healthy is a lot more than simply the absence of mental illness. The ‘Mind Yourself’ programme from Two Roads is designed to help people move towards flourishing mental health so that they can lead happier lives and have the emotional resilience for when things go wrong.  

“Beginning with building understanding of mental health, the latter parts of the programme will help nudge individuals into incorporating mentally healthy practices into their lives and to build their emotional resilience.

“The programme is open to all members of the veterinary team and spaces are available on a first come first served basis so, if you would like to attend, I would urge you to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.”

For more information on the Two Roads Charity training programme, and to book your place, visit the Mind Matters training page.

If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, there are many sources of support which you can reach out to: Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551, Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org. You can also contact your local GP or call NHS 111. If you are in crisis ring 999 or visit your local A&E department.

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Become a Mental Health First Aider with Mind Matters

This March, we’re offering veterinary professionals the opportunity to become Mental Health First Aiders, by providing in-person training in Nottingham.

The course, which will allow delegates to gain their Mental Health First Aid qualification, will be partially subsidised by us and led by Mental Health First Aid England who offer expert guidance and training to support mental health in the workplace and beyond.

The in-person two-day course will be running from Thursday 7 March to Friday 8 March 2024 at Antenna, Nottingham, at a cost of £80 per person. The course is open to all members of the veterinary professions, including veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, students, receptionists and practice managers.

Advancement of the Professions and Mind Matters Director, Angharad Belcher, said: “At MMI, we really believe in creating a thriving veterinary community which not only provides people with help and guidance to look after their own mental health, but also allows them to develop an understanding of how they can best support their fellow colleagues too. Those who complete the Mental Health First Aid course will learn how to spot signs of poor mental health in others, how to successfully signpost to appropriate support, and teach people how to confidently start conversations around mental health.

“Having worked with Mental Health First Aid England in the past to provide these valuable training courses, we are really pleased to see the network of veterinary Mental Health First Aiders continue to grow, particularly in more rural areas where access to mental health support is often more difficult to come by. The aim is to create a ripple effect, whereby Mental Health First Aiders within the veterinary community can then support others to feel confident in speaking out about how they feel and to reach out for appropriate support if required.”

For more information on the Mental Health First Aid course, and to book your place, visit our training page. Spaces are offered on a first come first served basis, so be sure to book you space quickly to avoid disappointment.

If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, there are many sources of support which you can reach out to: Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551, Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org. You can also contact your local GP or call NHS 111. If you are in crisis ring 999 or visit your local A&E department.

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Could you become a Mental Health First Aid Champion?

This January, we are offering veterinary professionals the chance to become Mental Health First Aid Champions, by subsidising a training course led by Mental Health First Aid England.

The course, which will allow delegates to qualify as Mental Health First Aid Champions, will be partially subsidised by MMI and led by Mental Health First Aid England who offer expert guidance and training to support mental health in the workplace and beyond.

We will be running two sessions. The first will take place on Tuesday 9 January 2024 and the second on Thursday 11 January 2024. Both will take place online from 9am – 5pm, cost £40 per person, and are open to all those working in the veterinary professions.

Advancement of the Professions and Mind Matters Director, Angharad Belcher, said: “We have been working alongside Mental Health First Aid for a couple of years now to provide subsidised training for the veterinary professions and have received fantastic feedback.

“This day long training session will help people to gain an understanding of what mental health is and how to challenge stigma, to gain the knowledge and confidence to advocate or mental health awareness, provide them with the ability to spot the signs of mental ill health and the skills to support positive wellbeing, as well as give people the confidence to support someone who is in distress or may be experiencing a mental health issue.

“While these sessions are open to all working in the veterinary professions, we are particularly encouraging vets working in rural areas or in ambulatory work to get involved. All veterinary work has its challenges, but we know from MMI funded research conducted by Scotland’s Rural College that rural and ambulatory veterinary work comes with its own set of challenges which is often compounded by working alone or having relatively limited contact with colleagues. Those working in rural areas often play integral roles within their local communities and it is therefore important to provide people with the skills to not only look after their own mental health, but with the opportunities to learn how to best support their friends and colleagues too.”

For more information on the Mental Health First Aid Champion training course, and to book your place, visit our training page. Spaces are limited, so we suggest booking early to avoid disappointment.

If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, there are many sources of support which you can reach out to: Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551, Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org. You can also contact your local GP or call NHS 111. If you are in crisis ring 999 or visit your local A&E department.

Graphic of a a log fire on a green MMI background

Gather round for our latest series of Campfire Chats

We are delighted to announce the return of our Campfire Chats this winter. Once again, we are inviting veterinary professionals to come together to engage in informal panel discussions on matters related to veterinary mental health and wellbeing.

Back by popular demand, the chats, which were first introduced back in 2021, are now returning for a fifth series and will offer all those working within the veterinary professions a chance to pause, reflect, and learn from each other’s experiences.

The first session in the series, ‘Self-care through Winter’, will take place online on Wednesday 13 December from 7pm – 8pm. It is open to all members of the veterinary professions including veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, students, practice managers, receptionists and everyone else who works in the field of animal health.

Advancement of the Professions and Mind Matters Director, Angharad Belcher, said: “We are really looking forward to bringing back our Campfire Chats, which offer a safe space for the veterinary community to come together for informal discussions on some of the issues impacting mental health and wellbeing.

“We have a brilliant panel lined up for the first session of the series and are keen to get as many people involved in the discussion as possible – however, if you simply want to grab a cup of tea and listen in to the discussion, you are absolutely welcome to do so.

“We are excited to announce that this year, all sessions will be recorded, so if you are unable to attend the chat on the night, you will be able to listen back to the panel session afterwards via the MMI website. However, the Q and A section of the chat will not be recorded as we are keen to make sure that attendees feel as comfortable as possible in sharing their thoughts and feelings, should they wish. Our Campfire Chats offer a safe space for all, to reflect, connect and decompress – just like sitting and chatting around a real campfire. We look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible.”

For more information on the ‘Self-care through Winter’ Campfire Chat, and to book your place, please visit our events page, where you can find a link to the dedicated Eventbrite page.

Our next Campfire Chat, ‘Managing Anxiety 101’, is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 24 January 2024, from 7pm – 8pm. The Eventbrite registration link for this will be available via our events page in due course.

Please note that the Campfire Chat sessions are informal in nature and intended to provide an outlet to discuss key topics related to mental health and do not replace proper professional or clinical information, advice or guidance. If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, there are many sources of support which you can reach out to: Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551, Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org. You can also contact your local GP or call NHS 111. If you are in crisis ring 999 or visit your local A&E department.

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Veterinary mental health researchers gather for Fourth MMI Symposium

On Tuesday 10 October, we held our fourth biennial mental health research symposium at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

The event saw veterinary mental health researchers from across Europe come together to share their insights into a variety of areas of veterinary mental health including moral injury, suicide and suicide prevention, the impact of racism, veterinary nurse mental health, and workplace stressors for autistic veterinary professionals. There was a total of 77 attendees, including a mix of academic researchers and veterinary professionals.

The day opened with a welcome from Dr Kate Richards MRCVS, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative. Kate provided the background to MMI before laying out the proceedings for the day which began with a talk from keynote speaker Dr Leah Quinlivan, Research Fellow and Chartered Psychologist at the University of Manchester, who presented on ‘Evidence-based care for people who have self-harmed: risk prediction, psychosocial assessments, and aftercare.’

RCVS CEO and MMI founder Lizzie Lockett then introduced the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, which has been awarded for five consecutive years. The grant was first set up in honour of former RCVS Council member and veterinary mental health advocate Sarah Brown, who took her own life in 2017. Lizzie highlighted Sarah’s brilliant work and thanked Sarah’s family for their ongoing support of the grant. She then went on to formally present the grant to this year’s recipients, Dr Jackie Hargreaves and Dr Faye Didymus, researchers from Leeds Beckett University, who will be running the last of six research projects funded in Sarah’s name. Their research project will be taking a deep dive into whether there is adequate mental health education in the student veterinary nursing curriculum.

The five previous Sarah Brown Research Grant recipients were then each invited to the stage to provide updates on their research projects. These were:

  • Dr Kate Lamont: How Farm Vets Cope: A summary of the project funded by the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant (Year 1), including ‘take home’ messages and post-project activity;
  • Dr Victoria Williamson: Experiences and impact of moral injury on UK veterinary professional wellbeing;
  • Dr Navaratnam Partheeban: Solutions that could make a difference to the impact of racism on Black and Minority Ethnic People working and studying in the UK veterinary profession;
  • Dr Kirstie Pickles: Autistic veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom: Workplace stressors and mental wellbeing; and,
  • Dr Katherine Wakelin and Sarah Corthorne: An online compassionate imagery intervention to improve psychological wellbeing for veterinarians: A randomised control trial.

The proceedings then paused for lunch and networking, before talks recommenced in the afternoon. These talks took a quick-fire approach, with each researcher having 15 minutes to present their work. These talks provided insight into a range of important topics and included presentations from seasoned academics as well as those just starting out in their careers. These sessions were chaired by Angharad Belcher, Director for the Advancement of the Professions, who oversees the work of the Mind Matters Initiative.

Angharad then took to the stage to talk about the work of MMI, including its newly published 5-year strategy and evaluation documents. Within her talk she shared her thoughts on the day, stating: “I’ve really enjoyed hearing from everybody who has shared their research and I love the part where everybody goes out and starts engaging in discussion and thinking about what might be, and where this can all take us. What solutions we might be able to find. What different strategies we might be able to employ. But most of all it’s about the shared desire to raise awareness of mental health and to address stigma and discrimination.”

MMI Chair, Dr Kate Richards presenting at the MMI Research Symposium 2023
MMI Chair, Dr Kate Richards

Dr Kate Richards then provided closing remarks for the day, stating: “What a day. I’m just so honoured to be the MMI Chair and really humbled by the passion, the commitment and generosity demonstrated by everybody throughout today.

“Today has been about a vast variety of topics with presenters from veterinary backgrounds, veterinary nurse backgrounds, medical science backgrounds and social science backgrounds. I think the power and the huge synergies from cross disciplinary working is a real motivator for me. Just to see everybody in the room sharing and collaborating, learning from one another, I think, is extremely powerful.”

A breakdown of the day, including talks abstracts and speaker bios, is available to access in our resources section. Videos of the day and a full report will be available to view in due course.

If you’re currently struggling with your mental health, Vetlife is there for you 24/7 and can be reached on: 0303 040 2551. The Samaritans also provide 24/7 support and can be reached on 116 123.

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Early bird tickets available for Mind Matters Symposium

With just over a month to go until our biennial Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Mental Health Research Symposium, there are still early bird tickets available at a reduced rate ahead of the event.

Coinciding with World Mental Health Day, the MMI Symposium will take place at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on Tuesday 10 October and bring together veterinary mental health researchers from across the UK and Europe to share their work. This includes former Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant recipients, who will share project progress updates.

The plenary will be delivered by Dr Leah Quinlivan, a research fellow and chartered psychologist at the University of Manchester. Her talk ‘Evidence-based care for people who have self-harmed: risk prediction, psychosocial assessments, and aftercare’, will outline the importance of improving mental health services for patients who have harmed themselves, via discussion of evidence, policy, and practice for risk prediction, psychosocial assessment, and aftercare.

In addition to presentations from the Sarah Brown Grant recipients and Dr Quinlivan, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of international veterinary mental health research experts on an array of topics ranging from the impacts of euthanasia on veterinary professionals, to the impact of Covid-19 on veterinary mental wellbeing in Europe.

RCVS Director for Advancement of the Professions, Angharad Belcher, said: “The Mind Matters Symposium is such an important event in the RCVS calendar as it highlights just how much progress is being made and how committed professionals both within and outside of the veterinary professions are when it comes to improving veterinary mental health.

“We know that those working in the veterinary professions are more at risk of developing mental health issues than the general population, so it is of vital importance that we do all we can to support people where we can, and research plays a key role in this.

“This is our first in-person symposium since before the pandemic, so we are keen to get as many people involved as possible. We welcome all members of the veterinary team, those who are curious about mental health in the veterinary context, those early on in their careers, experienced researchers, and everyone in between.

“Our early bird tickets are available for £45 until 11 September 2023, whereafter they will be available at our general admission price of £60. It’s also worth noting that we do have a limited number of free tickets available for those who wish to attend but do not have the means to do so. This includes students, people with lived experience of mental health problems, and people who are unwaged. If you fall into this category and are interested in attending, please do get in touch.” For more information about the Mind Matters Research Symposium and to book your place, please visit our Symposium 2023 page. Those wishing to apply for a free ticket should contact the MMI team directly on info@vetmindmatters.org.

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Mind Matters awards funding to project exploring SVN mental health education

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has awarded £20,000 to a research project taking a deep dive into whether there is adequate mental health education in the student veterinary nursing curriculum.

The funding comes from the MMI Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant which was founded in 2019 in memory of RCVS Council Member Sarah Brown, who passed away in 2017. The grant has since been awarded on a yearly basis to fund research into the mental health and wellbeing of those working within the veterinary professions.

Past projects have funded research into a number of areas, including: the mental health impacts of racism; moral injury; farm veterinarian mental health; an investigation into workplace stressors for autistic veterinarians; and the effectiveness of online compassionate imagery intervention.

This year’s grant has been awarded to Dr Faye Didymus (pictured right, top) and Dr Jackie Hargreaves (pictured right, bottom) from Leeds Beckett University who aim to address potential lack of understanding surrounding the importance of mental health education in the learning paths of student veterinary nurses. This will be done through a scoping review of mental health education during student veterinary nursing curricula. The review will be supplemented by interviews with tutors, veterinary nurse students and qualified veterinary nurses to understand their experiences of and levels of exposure to mental health education. It is hoped this research will culminate in a set of evidence-based recommendations for how mental health education for student veterinary nurses could be enhanced.

On being told their proposal had been awarded the grant, Dr Faye Didymus said: “Being awarded the Sarah Brown Research Grant offers a fantastic opportunity for us and for the future of veterinary nursing. We hope that our research will have a real impact on the mental health of those working in the veterinary nursing profession.”

“Maintaining good mental health is vital for job satisfaction, retention, and performance, and integrating mental health education into veterinary nursing courses is one way that veterinary nurse mental health can be supported, as it allows people to develop essential skills that will benefit their lives beyond education.”

“However, little is known about what mental health education is provided across veterinary nursing diplomas and degrees or if there is a consistent approach. Throughout the research, we aim to build a clearer picture of the current provision, so we can create evidence-based recommendations for the optimisation of veterinary nursing education.”

Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “This year marks the final year of the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants, and I would like to thank Sarah’s family for their blessing to run the grant and for their ongoing support. We have funded six projects over the past five years which we hope will help Sarah’s legacy and passion for improving mental health and wellbeing within the professions live on.

“I would also like to thank our panel of judges for their support. We have chosen a very deserving project and I look forward to seeing the outcome of their research and the impact it will have on the professions in the years to come.

“Much of the research into veterinary mental health has so far been centred around veterinary surgeons so we were keen to fund a veterinary nurse focussed project to help close that knowledge gap. The veterinary field encompasses the entire veterinary team, and we cannot afford to overlook a group that makes up much of the working veterinary population and who are vital for the functioning of the sector. It is essential that we support our veterinary nurses throughout their careers and provide them with the knowledge and tools to look after their own mental wellbeing from the outset.

“Research plays a major role in this, and we are delighted to be funding a fully nurse-based project.”

Dr Faye Didymus and Dr Jackie Hargreaves will be awarded the Sarah Brown Grant at the Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on Tuesday 10 October. Tickets and more information about the symposium are available on our dedicated symposium page.

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Mental health symposium to showcase groundbreaking international research

The Mind Matters Initiative’s (MMI) fourth Mental Health Research Symposium will take place in Manchester this autumn.

At the event, presentations will be delivered by veterinary mental health researchers from across the UK and Europe, including those whose projects have been funded by MMI’s Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants. The symposium, which has been designed to be inclusive and welcoming to all, takes place at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on Tuesday 10 October. Tickets cost £45 per person although the event is free for students, people with lived experience of mental health problems, and people who are unwaged, who would not otherwise be able to attend.

The symposium will be launched by the plenary speaker Dr Leah Quinlivan, a research fellow and chartered psychologist at the University of Manchester. Her talk ‘Evidence-based care for people who have self-harmed: risk prediction, psychosocial assessments, and aftercare’, will outline the importance of improving mental health services for patients who have harmed themselves, via discussion of evidence, policy, and practice for risk prediction, psychosocial assessment, and aftercare.

Dr Leah Quinlivan
Dr Leah Quinlivan

Dr Quinlivan’s talk will be followed by presentations from recipients of the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant. This annual £20,000 grant was launched in 2019 in memory of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown and has since funded a diverse range of research projects including into the wellbeing of farm vets, how racism and discrimination impact veterinary mental health, the effects of moral injury, and how to make reasonable adjustments for autistic veterinary professionals. The recipient of this year’s Sarah Brown grant will also be presented with their award at the symposium.

In the afternoon of the event there will be a number of talks from people already working in veterinary mental health research on topics including post-Covid wellbeing amongst veterinary professionals, the impact of companion animal euthanasia, workplace stressors and how they change with career stage, and the quality of mental health support received by veterinary nurses. Full details of the symposium, including abstracts and speaker biographies, will be published in due course.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative project manager, said: “This year it is great to get back to having an in-person MMI symposium. I am proud that we have created an inclusive and welcoming event, featuring leading national and international researcher on veterinary mental health and wellbeing, as well as those who are at the beginning of their research career. This year, the event promises once more to be a supportive and thought-provoking event, where we can gather to share findings, information and best practice for the good of the professions.

“The recent publication of MMI’s five-year strategy has outlined our recognition that we need to expand the conversation beyond mental health awareness and into looking at more systemic and cultural issues, as well as exploring how the insights gained from research might be implemented in practice. These ambitious aims are reflected in the breadth of the talks and presentations at the symposium and so I look forward to hearing more from those who share our values and aims, and to continuing the conversation about how and where we can do more.

“The symposium is very much open to all members of the veterinary team including vets, vet nurses, practice managers and academics. Previous feedback we’ve received from attendees has been uniformly positive, citing the insight of the researchers, the important discussions that have taken place about the research and the ability to network and talk to others with a passion for veterinary mental health and wellbeing. Finally, we are grateful to veterinary mental health researcher and Vetlife helpline manager Dr Rosie Allister MRCVS, for her continued support with the curation of the research programme”

Further information about the event, including registration details and a link to the symposium’s Eventbrite page, can be found in the Events section of our website.

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative: the next five years. Illustration of a lady sitting in rain with an umbrella that has the sun emerging from clouds within it.

Mind Matters reflects on progress and future with publication of new reports

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has, this week, released two key publications – an Evaluation Report outlining its progress and impact since its inception almost a decade ago, and its new Five-Year Strategy announcing the project’s plans and future direction.

Launched in December 2014, MMI was set up by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to help improve and support the mental health and wellbeing of those in the veterinary team, including students, veterinary nurses, veterinary surgeons and practice managers.

The Evaluation Report reflects on the story of MMI so far, looking at some of the key projects established under its three main workstreams: prevent, protect, and support. The report includes case studies outlining the key challenges and problems that MMI has sought to address, what was done to address them, the impact made, and how lessons learned from each of those projects will be used to shape the future of MMI.

The second publication, the Mind Matters Strategy, was developed alongside the evaluation, and presents an overview of MMI’s plans for the next five years, taking stock of MMI’s achievements so far, and looking ahead to new areas of focus that build on current successes while learning from the challenges faced in previous years. The Strategy summarises key objectives, and how these fit into the existing MMI prevent, protect and support workstreams.

Mind Matters Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “MMI has achieved so much over the past eight years, but none of it would have been possible without the support and collaborative efforts of other organisations who share our values and intent.

“Improving and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals requires effective communication and input from across the board – there is no quick fix, and we must work together to keep the conversation going.

“Our past projects have allowed us to connect with so many people from across the professions and we are all ultimately working towards the same goal. Our evaluation report aims to encapsulate just how far we’ve come and the impact we have managed to have since our inception, but also to highlight what lessons can be taken forward into the future.

“Our five-year strategy is ambitious, but without that ambition, we wouldn’t have been able to get to where we are today. The veterinary landscape, and indeed, the mental health and societal landscapes, have evolved considerably over the past few years and will continue to do so. We have achieved a lot, but there is always room for improvement, and it is important that we remain agile and adaptable to change, while continuing to listen to those with lived experience of the issues we seek to address.

“I would like to personally thank everyone who has been involved in our various projects up until now and who has helped to guide our progress, in particular the members of the MMI Taskforce and everyone who contributed to our consultation. Mind Matters is for you, our veterinary professionals, and I hope you will continue to engage with our work in the years to come, so we can continue to grow and evolve to support as many people to thrive as possible.”

To view the Mind Matters 5 Year Strategy ‘The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative: The next 5 years’, and the Evaluation ‘The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative: The story so far…’ visit our resource page at https://vetmindmatters.org/resources/.