Lighthouse with crashing storm waves

MMI & BSAVA’s ‘resilience course’ pilot proves popular

In partnership with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will be piloting resilience training courses for veterinary professionals throughout February 2019.

These free, full-day courses count towards a veterinary professional’s continuing professional development and are designed to help attendees gain the tools to become more resilient in their working lives, and safeguard their mental wellbeing. The courses have proven incredibly popular, with all four location events reaching full capacity in a short space of time. This exemplifies the need for courses such as these, with an ever-increasing focus on the wellbeing of veterinary professionals.

Lisa Quigley, MMI Manager, said: “I am thrilled at the popularity of these resilience training courses, which goes to show that the veterinary profession is becoming increasingly proactive about improving wellbeing in the workplace. When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, resilience is only one part of the jigsaw; but it is an important part, and one that we can all take steps to build upon in our daily lives. I am delighted to be working with such fantastic training providers who are helping us reach veterinary professionals throughout the UK.”

 The courses will be held on the following dates:

  • 1 February – Belfast Hilton – with Mary Bannon from PIPS Programmes
  • 13 February – Elephant and Castle Hotel, Newtown Powys with Barry Lewis
  • 26 February – Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, Edinburgh with the Samaritans
  • 4 March – RCVS London with Work Psychology Group

The term resilience is not intended to focus on the individual ‘toughening up’ to better suit their workplace, but rather to focus on their overall wellbeing and general resilience throughout their lives, both professionally and personally.

Resilience is one of the most powerful tools to possess in a personal wellbeing ‘toolkit’. It allows adequate response to the pressures of everyday life and to ‘bounce back’ when things get tough. Building resilience can be particularly important in the veterinary profession, in which it is known that veterinary professionals display higher than average rates of depression and anxiety, and that, sadly, vets are at an increased risk of suicide.

Speaking about the workshops, BSAVA’s Senior Vice-President, John Chitty, said: “BSAVA is delighted to be joining with the Mind Matters Initiative in supporting this preliminary series of workshops. Mental health problems are a very serious problem in all sectors of the veterinary industry, and BSAVA are glad to be able to support these events that will enable participants to not only learn to help themselves, but also to take back to their practices and workplaces and help colleagues. BSAVA is looking forward to subsequently hosting a series of workshops based on feedback from this preliminary series that will be hosted across the BSAVA Regions over the next 12 to 18 months.”

Please contact Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, for further information, or visit the Training page where you can also find links to register for upcoming courses via the MMI Eventbrite page.

The Webinar Vet logo

Mind Matters Initiative focuses on new wellbeing webinar series

We are pleased to announce a new series of webinars to be hosted by The Webinar Vet, focusing on how to increase wellbeing.

The first webinar takes place on Thursday 13 December at 1pm and will focus on the link between psychological wellbeing and regular outdoor exercise. The webinar will be hosted by Oli Glackin, the RCVS Leadership Initiative Manager who is also a consultant in the psychology of exercise, and Nat Scroggie MRCVS, a keen marathon runner who is known for her blog, ‘This Vet Runs’. The webinar is titled, ‘”I know it’ll be good for me tomorrow”: physical activity, the elixir that’s just around the corner’.

The webinar will explore what is commonly known about the positive relationship between physical activity and psychological wellbeing and mental health, including details of exercise ‘dose’ and intensity. It will also focus on changing the way we approach physical exercise, the sorts of motivators that work for us individually, the introduction of fun and pleasure into the regime of exercise, and will seek to help participants improve their own relationship with exercise.

Nat Scroggie will also be speaking personally about her own journey with exercise and how it has had a positive impact on her wellbeing.

She said: “It’s been an absolute honour to be involved in promoting well-being in the veterinary profession, and to share my own story. Exercise has been my biggest tool in managing my first few years in practice. It has been a relief from the day to day stresses, whilst also giving me a challenge and identity outside of my working life. I’m a pretty average runner, but I recently ran my first marathon, something I never ever thought I could do. It’s hard to explain how much confidence those 26.2 miles have given me in my working life, even if it seems like it’s nothing to do with finally nailing a bitch spay.

“Making time to do something that’s great for your body, and your mind, is allowing yourself the time to prioritise you. As veterinary professionals we are brilliant at caring for our clients and patients, but it’s amazing what we can achieve when we allow ourselves that same compassion.”

Sign up to take part in this webinar, which can also count towards a veterinary surgeon’s or veterinary nurse’s continuing professional development.

In January 2019, the RCVS’ MMI project will be holding a series of webinars on the evening of the ‘Pre-Congress Associates Day’ on Friday 18 January 2019, ahead of the Webinar Vet’s Virtual Congress from Saturday 19 to Sunday 20 January.

The webinar series focus on veterinary wellbeing and are as follows:

  • 7pm – 7.30pm: Qualified accountant and wellbeing advisor Jo Stevens will present ‘How to stay positive in a negative world’.
  • 7.30pm – 8pm: Positive psychologist and professional wellbeing coach will present ‘How thinking positively makes life easier’.
  • 8pm – 8.30pm: Leadership coach and trainer Anne-Marie Svendsen-Aylott will talk about ‘Understanding the concept of “mindset” – a key to finding a more positive outlook.’
  • 8.30pm – 9pm: Dr Sara Tai, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, will be presenting ‘Living the life you want’.

Any member of the veterinary team is welcome to take part in the Webinar Vet Virtual Congress and the sessions being run by the RCVS. Visit the Virtual Congress website for more information, and to purchase tickets.

VetKind logo

MMI and the AVS holding online wellbeing seminar ‘VetKind’

Together with the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS), we will be running an online wellbeing symposium, the very first of its kind, which is specifically designed for veterinary students.

Jenny Moffett, Managing Director of SkilllstreeThis symposium, titled ‘VetKind’, will be held on 24 November from 9am – 3pm and will be led by Jenny Moffett (pictured), Managing Director of Skilllstree, an organisation that provides personal and professional development for doctors, vets, nurses and other healthcare professionals through evidence-based training, coaching and simulation techniques.

The symposium has been organised by Eleanor Robertson (a final-year Liverpool veterinary student and AVS Senior Vice-President) and Hannah Fitzsimmonds (a fourth-year Bristol veterinary student and senior AVS Representative), who have put together a programme of expert speakers, activities and case-based learning experiences.

The aim is to explore the mind, mood and mental health issues that are specifically relevant to students, with an evidence-based approach to the presented topics.

The seminar will be split into two parts throughout the day, with the first section being run by Jenny and focusing on sessions around the Science of Happiness, perfectionism and the Imposter Syndrome, empathy, and how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

There will be a specific focus on the evidence behind positive psychology, which can then be taken forward and practically applied to help manage veterinary life. The second half of the day will be focused on discussions of any prominent issues that may have arisen from the previous sessions. This seminar is set to be educational and engaging, with many universities counting this towards a student’s extra-mural studies (EMS).

Over the past year, the AVS has held Mental Health First Aid courses at every vet school, as well as holding ‘CV of Failures’ evenings, which were created for new graduates and clinicians to chat with students about inevitable career hiccups. These evenings, which were supported by Mind Matters, also seek to tackle and reduce the stigma around ‘failure’ as something to be ashamed of and avoided at all costs.

AVS Senior Vice-President, Eleanor Robertson, said:

“I am really looking forward to this online wellbeing symposium, and feel that all individuals who attend should gain a greater awareness of both their own, as well as other people’s, mental health and wellbeing. The day is set to cover many areas related to wellbeing, and I hope that all attendees find the seminar educational, beneficial, and enjoyable!”

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director and RCVS CEO, said:

“This is a really innovative approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students and we are delighted to support it through Mind Matters. For the veterinary profession of the future to be healthy, happy and sustainable it’s vital that the stigma around mental health and wellbeing is reduced, and individuals are given the skills and knowledge they need to help stay well. This course highlights the brilliant proactive approach from the AVS and points to a positive future cohort of professionals.”

To sign up, email or contact university AVS representative.

Sarah Brown

RCVS Council member remembered with mental health research funding

We have announced our Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants, named for an elected RCVS Council member who tragically passed away last year.

One £20,000 grant will be awarded each year for five years starting in 2019 (making a total of £100,000 by 2023)  to fund research that focuses on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary professions, including areas such as prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment. Sarah passed away in October 2017, shortly after becoming a member of RCVS Council in July of that year.

Professor Stuart Reid, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “The passing of Sarah was a tragedy. She was talented and committed and although only recently elected to Council, she was respected and loved by many. I am very proud we are launching the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants in her memory.

“Improving mental health and wellbeing within the professions was one of Sarah’s passions and so I can think of no more fitting tribute to her than these grants, which will help advance forward research in this area and contribute to improving the overall mental health of the professions.

“I would particularly like to thank Sarah’s family who have given their blessing for this project and fully support the Mind Matters Initiative’s mission to reduce stigma, increase awareness, encourage members of the profession to seek support and encourage further research.”

Further information about the research grants and how to apply for them will be released in early 2019. Researchers who wish to have an initial discussion about the grants should contact Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, on

Building front - Village Hotel Newcastle

Book a Mind Matters training course

We will once again be hosting a series of mental health training courses with mental health consultant Trevor Bell throughout October and November 2018.

These full-day courses, designed to help attendees better understand and communicate the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health, cost £85 and are open to all members of the veterinary team.

The courses will be held on the following dates:

• Newcastle upon Tyne: 4 October – Village Hotel, Newcastle NE27 0BY
• Taunton: 12 October – Taunton Rugby Football Club TA2 8BU
• Glasgow: 15 October – Mercure Glasgow City Hotel G1 1DQ
• Crawley: 18 October – Arora Hotel RH10 6LW
• Peterborough: 29 October – Park Inn by Raddisson PE1 1BA
• Wrexham: 1 November 2018 – Holt Lodge Hotel LL13 9SW

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director, said: “After receiving some really positive feedback from previous courses we are so pleased to once again be hosting this series of mental health training days.

“These training days aim to give attendees the knowledge to recognise common signs and symptoms of mental illness, and the confidence to encourage others to seek help.

“There have been some wonderful advances around talking about mental health in the veterinary profession over the past few years, but people may still find it hard to know how to start a conversation with a friend or colleague who’s struggling. We hope that courses like this can help with those first steps, and empower people to recognise distress and guide those around them towards appropriate support.”

Please contact Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, on for further information, or visit our training page where you can also find links to register for the courses via the MMI Eventbrite page.

Wellbeing Awards booklet logo

Vet Wellbeing Awards looking for the happiest practice in the UK

In partnership with the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons, MMI is looking for the happiest practices in the UK for this year’s Vet Wellbeing Awards.

The Awards are now in their third year, having been started in 2016 in recognition of the fact that there were relatively high levels of work-related stress and poor mental health within the veterinary professions. The aim of the Awards has been to highlight the positivity of the profession by identifying examples of veterinary workplaces that were demonstrating their commitment to improving staff wellbeing through initiatives, management systems and other forms of staff engagement.

In the intervening years the Awards have evolved and, this year, they are placing a renewed emphasis on practices that take a holistic approach to wellbeing, with the Award judges looking for evidence that workplaces are devoted to improving wellbeing across the board.

Lizzie Lockett, Director of MMI, explains: “This year we aren’t just looking for practices that have nice initiatives such as fresh fruit bowls or free staff massages – although these are, of course, contributors to wellbeing – but want workplaces to show us evidence of practice-wide protocols, policies and initiatives that really do enhance wellbeing.

“What we are particularly keen to showcase with these awards is that wellbeing isn’t a bolt-on luxury that only practices with lots of money, time and staff can invest in but that it’s something that practices of all sizes can engage in and that there is a very strong business case for doing so as it improves retention rates, reduces stress and improves team cohesion.”

There are three award categories that practices can enter depending on the number of employees:  small practice (15 or fewer full time equivalent team members (FTE)), medium practice (16 to 50 FTEs) or large practice (51 or FTEs).

The Award application form covers six key aspects of work that, if well-managed, can promote wellbeing and reduce the risk of work-related stress, and the Award judges will be looking for evidence of commitment to enhancing wellbeing for each of these. These are:

  • Work demands
  • Workload and work scheduling
  • Relationships at work
  • Career development
  • Communication at work
  • Promoting physical and psychological health at work

Further information and examples of the type of evidence and initiatives that the Awards are looking for in each of these areas are available on the Vet Wellbeing Awards website and in a booklet available for download from the resources section of this website.

The Awards’ entry form can also be found on the Vet Wellbeing Awards website in addition to case studies of winners from previous years.

Throughout the application period the RCVS will also be publishing a series of podcasts featuring interviews with previous years’ award winners, talking about their own initiatives and how improving staff wellbeing has benefitted their business.

Nick Stuart, former SPVS President and Vet Wellbeing Awards Coordinator, says:  “In the previous two years we have had some excellent and very deserving winners who have some outstanding stories to tell about the steps they’ve taken to improve wellbeing and the difference it’s made to their teams, their business, the clients and the animals they treat.

“We look forward to seeing more excellent entries this year.  If practices make this a team effort, brainstorming and sharing ideas and generating feedback then the entry process itself can be an exercise in engagement and provide a useful audit of wellbeing.

The closing date for entries is Friday 23 November 2018. The prize for each category includes two registrations and banquet tickets for SPVS/Veterinary Management Group (VMG) Congress 2018 where the winners will be announced to the media and will be available for interview.

You can also follow the awards on Twitter @vetwellbeing and Facebook /vetwellbeingawards/.

BSAVA Congress 2018 logo

Mind Matters at BSAVA Congress

Mind Matters is heading to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress this year, holding a number of sessions on mental health.

On the Thursday in Hall 6 there will be two sessions hosted by Mind Matters Chair, Stuart Reid. From 11:05-11:50 Elinor O’Connor, Director of Teaching and Learning Fellow at Alliance Manchester Business School, and Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO, will give a talk titled ‘Maximising wellbeing at work: an evidence-based approach’, and then from 12:00-12:45 there will then be a talk titled ‘Blaming, excuses and mindset – how changing the way you think and speak can help change practice culture’ with Anne-Marie Svendesen Aylott, Leadership Coach at PurpleCat Coaching.

Also, on the Saturday there will be an ‘&me Live’ event chaired by Lizzie in her capacity as Director of Mind Matters, to talk about the joint Mind Matters and Doctors’ Support Network mental health campaign, &me. The campaign aims to encourage senior people within the healthcare professions to come forward with their stories to reduce the stigma around mental ill health, and demonstrate that a mental health problem does not exclude people from achieving leading roles in healthcare.

For a full schedule of RCVS talks at BSAVA Congress, please visit the RCVS website.

RCVS staff in group table discussion

Now recruiting: Mind Matters Manager

Would you like to help make a real difference to the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary profession? We are recruiting for a Mind Matters Manager to join us in the RCVS offices in Westminster and help deliver programmes, tools, training and campaigns for the whole veterinary team.

You can find a full job description outlining key responsibilities and person specifications for the role on the RCVS website.

To apply please send your CV and cover letter to The closing date for applications is Thursday 15 March 2018.

Lizzie Lockett at AndMe campaign launch

Anniversary of joint mental health campaign

On 31 January we and the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) are marking the first anniversary of our joint ‘&me’ campaign, which aims to tackle mental health stigma in the health professions by encouraging prominent members to speak out about their own experiences. The Doctors’ Support Network provides peer support for doctors and medical students with mental health concerns.

&me was launched this time last year at the Palace of Westminster at an event sponsored by Kevan Jones MP (Labour, North Durham,) who has spoken about his own experiences with depression.

Overall eleven &me ambassadors have volunteered their own stories with mental ill-health:

  • Dr Louise Freeman, tribunal member and vice chair DSN
  • Dr Angelika Luehrs, consultant psychiatrist and co-chair DSN
  • Dr Jonathan Richardson, group medical director for community services, Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dr Caroline Reed O’Connor, a senior trainee psychiatrist and psychotherapist
  • David Bartram, RCVS Council member
  • Malcolm Kinnear, consultant psychiatrist and Honorary Senior Clinical Teacher at the University of Dundee
  • Rob Pettitt, Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Orthopaedics, University of Liverpool
  • Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, consultant clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and supervisor
  • Dr Cathy Wield, emergency medicine doctor and author
  • Dr Susan Atcheson, senior GP
  • Steve Carter, Director at Priory Veterinary Surgeons

Meanwhile, a number of &me ambassadors will be taking part in an ‘&me live’ session at BSAVA Congress, from 5-8 April 2018 in Birmingham, providing a short overview of their story before taking questions from the audience. The session will take place from 8.30 to 10.10am on Saturday 7 April and will be open to all those attending Congress.

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and Mind Matters Director, said: “The feedback our &me ambassadors have received is truly heartening. Steve Carter, for example, had both an ex-student and colleague comment on his story thanking him for all he’s done, while a Facebook post about Rob Pettitt reached nearly 25,000 people. The campaign highlights how it is possible to recover from mental ill-health and flourish in your career, with the aim of encouraging those at the start of their mental ill-health experience to seek appropriate help, whether that is something profession-specific, such as Vetlife or DSN, or their GP.”

Louise Freeman, Co-Chair of the DSN, added: “Many healthcare professionals face similar pressures that can lead to mental ill-health, including long hours, intense pressure, and the nature of the job which requires practitioners to constantly provide care for others, without necessarily recognising the need for self-care at the same time. A recurring theme that we’ve seen from these ambassadors’ stories has been that they drew on support from friends and family, and we really hope that this campaign encourages other professionals to seek help if they feel they are struggling.”

The campaign is interested in hearing from not only doctors and veterinary surgeons but also nurses, veterinary nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who want to open up about their experiences of mental ill-health. To participate in the campaign, please email Dr Louise Freeman on

Further information about the ‘&me’ campaign can be found on our project page, along with a blog by Louise, ‘Me and #AndMe’.

On social media tweets about the campaign are being sent from @vetmindmatters and @DocSupportNet using the hashtag #AndMe.

Graphic from wellbeing guide - 4 arms busy answering phone writing and using a computer

Guide to enhancing wellbeing in the veterinary workplace published

We have developed a guide on wellbeing in the veterinary workplace in association with Dr Elinor O’Connor, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.

‘A Guide to Enhancing Wellbeing and Managing Work Stress in the Veterinary Workplace’ will be launched at the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons/Veterinary Management Group (SPVS/VMG) Congress from 25-27 January 2018, in Newport. Designed for anyone with an interest in the wellbeing of the veterinary team, it provides practical advice to veterinary workplaces on managing stress and promoting wellbeing, alongside examples from the three winning practices of the 2016 MMI/SPVS Wellbeing Awards.

Dr O’Connor said: “Addressing stress in veterinary work not only has benefits for the health and wellbeing of each person in the veterinary team, but the business case for reducing work-related stress is clear; stress is associated with poorer performance, increased absenteeism and higher employee turnover. The wellbeing guide provides information about proven techniques for reducing stress at work combined with suggestions for how they might be applied in veterinary workplaces.”

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and MMI Director, said: “Stress at work is an important issue right across the veterinary team. It is sometimes considered just an acceptable part of working in an environment that can be difficult to control, but things can change. By making wellbeing a priority practices can support individuals and help their team work better together, and thus provide the best treatment for the animals under their care. This leaflet unpacks some of the root causes of work-related stress and may be of particular interest to practice managers, line managers or health and safety officers.”

For a copy of the guide, please visit Mind Matters Stand 51 at SPVS/VMG Congress, or download a digital version.

The Webinar Vet logo

Mind Matters to host International Virtual Congress session on mental health

We will be hosting a session on mental health as part of The Webinar Vet’s International Virtual Congress, on 19 January 2018 from 7pm to 9pm. This will be the third time that we have taken part in the International Virtual Congress and will see Stuart Reid, RCVS Council member and Chair of the MMI, chair a series of MMI-sponsored talks focusing on shame and blame, the ‘arrival fallacy’, and wellbeing in practice.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons launched Mind Matters to increase the accessibility and acceptance of mental health support, and encourage a culture that better equips individuals to talk about and deal with stress and related issues.

The session comprises three talks:

  • ‘The surprising truth behind genuinely living with passion and purpose,’ with Jenny Guyat, founder of Vet Harmony. This talk will review the research data on shame and vulnerability, and look at their impact on the veterinary professions.
  • ‘What’s your Ikigai? Overcoming the arrival fallacy and finding meaning in everyday life,’ with Jen Brandt, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Director of Member Wellness and Diversity Initiatives. In this webinar Jen will discuss how to identify and pursue values, rather than external goals.
  • ‘Happy you and happy team – change one thing and you could change your life’. In this webinar Rachel Duncan, co-director of 387 Veterinary Centre, will review some of the initiatives that helped make her practice one of the SPVS Wellbeing Award winners in 2017.

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director, said: “These online congresses are a great way to reach the many members of the veterinary team. We hope that a wide range of people will be able to listen and benefit from the speakers’ practical advice on identifying areas for personal development that can have a positive impact on their own mental health and wellbeing as well as that of their colleagues.”

Register now for the stream on The Webinar Vet’s website.

Mind Matters Logo

Stress and resilience at work

In a bid to better understand mindset, resilience and stress amongst veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses, Lucy Whitehall, final-year Masters student reading Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology with the University of East London, is carrying out a survey amongst members of the professions.

The results will be shared with us and should help to provide an evidence base that will help us to better understand which interventions may be most helpful in supporting mental health and wellbeing in the profession.

All those veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who ticked the box on their renewal form to say they are happy to take part in research activities have been sent an email by Lucy with a link to the survey.

Others who would like to take part can do so through this link.

The survey will take around 15 minutes to complete and is anonymous. It has been ethically approved by the British Psychological Society, and will close on 15 December 2017.

Thank you in advance to all those who take part.

Vet wellbeing Awards logo 2017

Deadline extended for Vet Wellbeing Awards

We and the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) have extended the deadline for the Vet Wellbeing Awards nominations to Friday 15 December 2017.

The Awards, first launched last year, were created to highlight wellbeing in the veterinary profession and to celebrate those practices that really value the health and engagement of their team. All UK practices, branch surgeries or other organisations who employ vets or vet nurses are eligible, and the prize for each category includes two registrations and banquet tickets for SPVS/VPMA Congress 2018 where the winners will be announced to the media and will be available for interview.

Practices that are thinking about applying can now access a free five-minute Wellbeing Checklist that can help provide examples of some simple activities that can improve the health and wellbeing of the veterinary team.

Nick Stuart from SPVS said: “Taking five minutes to fill out the Wellbeing Checklist is a great way to get a sense of how your practice is doing, and to identify ways in which you could improve. Practices are often doing a lot more than they realise and the Checklist shows how even such small steps as a having a fruit bowl in the staff room, or having a five-minute huddle at the start of the day, can make a huge difference.”

Lizzie Lockett, Mind Matters Director, said: “Having a supportive and constructive culture is key not just for the welfare of the staff, but for the animals they take care of. It allows all members of the team to feel comfortable coming forward with questions, clarifications, or even mistakes, and can ultimately lead to safer and more consistent care for patients.”

Entries can be made now via the website, as is the Wellbeing Checklist.

The closing date for entries is Friday 24 November 2017. You can follow the awards on Twitter and Facebook.

Vet wellbeing Awards logo 2017

Vet Wellbeing Awards launched by SPVS and MMI

The Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) are building on the success of last year’s SPVS Wellbeing Awards to launch the new Vet Wellbeing Awards.

The Awards are open to UK practices, branch surgeries or other organisations who employ vets or vet nurses. They were created to highlight wellbeing in the veterinary profession and celebrate workplaces where:

• health and happiness are valued;
• there are systems and initiatives that motivate;
• staff are engaged;
• communication is positive;
• there is commitment to being a better place to work.

Stress management is a legal health and safety requirement and research from across the world shows that a happy, healthy workforce improves productivity and staff retention.

The new-look awards have been developed in collaboration with Dr Elinor O’Connor, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School. She said: “A good working environment has positive effects on our health, wellbeing and job satisfaction. In contrast, work-related stress can cause physical and psychological ill-health, and in turn compromise organisational effectiveness and productivity.

“Data from the Health and Safety Executive shows that 11.7 million working days were lost to work-related stress in the UK in 2015-16. The Vet Wellbeing Awards will recognise veterinary workplaces that actively support colleagues’ wellbeing, as well as enabling the profession to share ideas for increasing wellbeing in veterinary work.”

Nick Stuart from SPVS said: “We were delighted with the quality of entries we received last year and were encouraged with both the activities and incentives that practices are undertaking to ensure that their team members’ wellbeing is encouraged and maintained through what we all know can be very busy and stressful jobs.”

Lizzie Lockett, MMI Director, said: “A happy, healthy workforce means improved animal health and welfare and better client service. Although there are legal requirements around stress management, our Wellbeing Awards recognise and celebrate those who go one step further – or in some cases, many steps – to ensure their team can be at their best, both in and out of work.”

The Vet Wellbeing Awards are open to practices, branch surgeries and any organisations who employ vets or vet nurses in the UK and entries can be made now via the website

The closing date for entries is Friday 24 November 2017. The prize for each category includes two registrations and banquet tickets for SPVS/VPMA Congress 2018 where the winners will be announced to the media and will be available for interview.

You can also follow the awards on twitter @vetwellbeing and Facebook /vetwellbeingawards/.

Vet Support NI logo

Northern Ireland peer support service launches with MMI support

A specialist service to provide mental health and wellbeing support for all members of the veterinary community in Northern Ireland has been launched.

Vet Support NI is a confidential service that will support any individual involved in the veterinary profession – including vets, veterinary nurses and other support staff – and will be delivered by local members of the veterinary community who have been specifically trained to provide a safe, empathetic, non-judgemental and confidential service. The service was founded by Vet NI, an umbrella organisation representing veterinary organisations in Northern Ireland, with funding support from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative.

Des Thompson from Vet NI is the force behind the project. He said: “This is a service for any member of the veterinary community who is feeling stressed or suffering from any form of mental ill-health or poor wellbeing, and complements already existing services such as the Vetlife Helpline.

“The motto behind the service is listening, supporting and signposting. For example, our team can help people manage their stress or anxiety, teach calming techniques and coping mechanisms, provide advice on supporting colleagues and refer people on if they need additional or more complex support and advice.

“The advantage of the service is that it is local and service users will be communicating with named team members who are vets and vet nurses from their community. However, all matters will be strictly confidential.”

Lizzie Lockett, Director of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative, added: “We are very glad to provide support to launch this unique service. For many people, it is important that their support comes from within the local community, from people who may better understand the pressures they are under and the problems they are facing. We will be watching the progress of the service with interest to see if it might be rolled out in other communities within the UK.”

Further information about the service, including profiles of the support team members, can be found at

Lizzie Lockett at AndMe campaign launch

Great results reported from mental health campaign

We and the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) are pleased to report positive progress since the launch in January of their joint anti-stigma mental health campaign.

The &me campaign (#AndMe), which was launched at the House of Commons in January, has taken a new approach to the de-stigmatisation of mental ill-health within the healthcare professions.

Although health professional bodies advise professionals to value their own wellbeing and seek appropriate help if unwell, there has been an absence of senior professionals who have felt able to say ‘been there myself’.

By asking senior medical professionals to share their stories of overcoming struggles with mental health, &me aims to encourage other medical professionals to seek help, in part by showing that such experiences do not exclude people from achieving leading roles in healthcare.

With the addition of Dr Cathy Wield in August, there are now seven ambassadors for the &me campaign, and all of their stories can be read on our website:

  • Dr Caroline Reed O’Connor, who went on to be a senior trainee psychiatrist and psychotherapist after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder
  • David Bartram, a veterinary surgeon and member of RCVS Council who was in hospital multiple times as a result of depression before gaining additional qualifications and moving into roles of increasing responsibility
  • Dr Malcolm Kinnear, a psychiatrist who took long-term sick leave for depression before completing his training to become a consultant and taking an honorary teaching position at the University of Dundee
  • Dr Susan Atcheson, a senior GP who has experienced multiple episodes of psychotic depression
  • Rob Pettitt, a vet and Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool who experienced depression, taking eight weeks off work before slowly returning to a full-time schedule
  • Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, a psychologist, psychotherapist and supervisor, who was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. He then went on to gain a consultant post with the Ministry of Defence, achieve three fellowships and four professorships, establish a research institute and become President of the British Psychological Society
  • Dr Cathy Wield, a doctor who experienced two bouts of severe depression including hospital admissions and brain surgery. She returned to work in emergency medicine, and has written two books about her experience of being a doctor with depression.

Lizzie Lockett, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “Over the past eight months we have seen an incredible level of support for our &me ambassadors. Our Facebook post about Rob Pettitt, for example, reached nearly 25,000 people, many of whom posted stories about Rob helping them navigate veterinary school and better understand their own mental health issues. These kind of role models really do help reduce stigma, and we thank every one of our ambassadors for having the courage to share their own experiences with mental health.”

Louise Freeman, Vice-Chair of the Doctors’ Support Network, said: “The &me campaign has really shown how the medical professions can work together when it comes to mental health. Medical professionals face many of the same challenges, and we needn’t face them alone – instead we can work as one to tackle stigma and speak openly about mental health issues. And it’s not just in the UK that health professionals can feel as if they are ‘not allowed’ to experience mental health problems. As a direct result of the &me campaign, health professionals from around the world including Australia and the U.S. have been in contact with DSN to confirm that they have similar issues within their local health culture.”

The campaign is still interested in hearing from not only doctors and veterinary surgeons but also nurses, veterinary nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who want to open up about their experiences of mental ill health. To participate in the campaign, please email Dr Louise Freeman on

On social media tweets about the campaign are sent from @vetmindmatters and @DocSupportNet Twitter accounts using the hashtag #AndMe.

Cathy Wield

Mind Matters announces new &Me ambassador

We are pleased to announce Dr Cathy Wield as the most recent ambassador for the &Me campaign, a joint anti-stigma mental health campaign with the Doctors’ Support Network. The year-long campaign showcases stories from senior people within the healthcare professions, be they veterinarians, GPs, dentists or psychiatrists, who have experienced mental ill health in the past. Through these stories the campaign hopes to reduce the stigma around mental health and show young professionals that it doesn’t stand in the way of a successful career.

Cathy returned to work in emergency medicine after experiencing two bouts of major depression which included hospital admissions and brain surgery. She has written extensively about her experience as a doctor with depression, including two books: Life after Darkness: A Doctor’s Journey Through Severe Depression, and A Thorn in My Mind: Mental Illness, Stigma and the Church.

In her &Me story, published on the Mind Matters website, Cathy writes: “We are whole people, the mind and body are not separate entities and we all deserve respect and care regardless of our past or present symptoms, or what brought them about.”

Stonewall Diversity Champion logo

College becomes Stonewall Diversity Champion

RCVS recently teamed up with Stonewall, the charity that campaigns for equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, to become a Stonewall Diversity Champion with the aim of ensuring that all people are accepted, without exception, within the veterinary profession.

By becoming a Stonewall Diversity Champion, we join over 750 other organisations who are striving to create workplaces that are equal, inclusive and accepting.

Lizzie Lockett , RCVS Deputy CEO and Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, says: “We are delighted to be working with Stonewall and will benefit greatly from its expertise and energy. These may not be easy issues to tackle but we hope that this tie-up with Stonewall will, in itself, send a positive message of our intent to take the issues seriously and make the RCVS, and the veterinary profession at large, as inclusive as possible

“There are three aspects to the work we plan: first, to ensure the RCVS is a welcoming and accepting employer by integrating inclusion and diversity into all aspects of our organisation; second, to review our policies and procedures around areas such as registration, to make sure that they take account of the diversity within the veterinary profession; and, finally, through our Mind Matters Initiative, we aim to work with our partners to develop inclusive workplaces throughout the veterinary profession. The ability to be oneself in the workplace has a big impact on mental health and wellbeing so it’s a core issue for Mind Matters.”

The move to link up with Stonewall was catalysed by discussions with Mat Hennessey, President of the British Veterinary Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender group, who says: “We are extremely excited about the collaboration between the RCVS and Stonewall, and feel this positive move to culture equality and inclusivity will benefit the profession as a whole. Stonewall is the largest LGBT+ charity in the UK and Europe and thus has a wealth of knowledge and resources relating to LGBT+ issues. We look forward to continuing to work with both parties during this important venture.”

Meanwhile, Abby Crawford, Public Sector Client Manager at Stonewall, is “thrilled that the RCVS has joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme to advance LGBT inclusion in the workplace.”

She adds: “We know that LGBT staff can face specific barriers in the workplace and it’s great that the RCVS has taken a strong commitment to LGBT equality in this way. We look forward to working with them to create more inclusive environments for their staff and service users – working towards a world where all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are accepted without exception.”

Mike Scanlan

New sleep and anxiety webinar series

The Mind Matters Initiative and the Webinar Vet have teamed up again to deliver a new series of webinars, this time to help veterinary professionals understand sleep and worry less about it, and feel less tired and anxious about the effect sleep problems may have on their lives.

The six ‘Choosing and Understanding Sleep’ webinars, which start on 7 June 2017 and take place between 8pm and 9pm every Wednesday evening until 12 July, are presented by mental health and wellbeing consultant Dr Mike Scanlan.

He comments: “The Mental Health Foundation points out that we spend approximately a third of our lives asleep. Sleep is an essential and involuntary process, without which we cannot function effectively. It is as important to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing, and is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Sleeping helps to repair and restore our brains, not just our bodies. Very often, however, it is, paradoxically our own over-preoccupation with sleep that is at the route of many people’s problems. The Choosing and Understanding Sleep series aims to help people gain a more mindful stance to sleep.”

The overall objectives of the webinar series will be to understand more about sleep processes, to learn about the paradoxical sleep effect, to understand the importance of sleep hygiene and patterns, to learn to defuse thinking and to understand more about the ‘double-edged sword’ of sleep control.

Lizzie Lockett, Director of Mind Matters, comments: “Like many busy professionals, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses worry about the impact of sleep on their working life – whether they are getting enough of it and whether lack of sleep might affect their competence at work and their ability to deal with the stressors of daily life. This course will help members of the veterinary team be less anxious about sleep and feel more relaxed and content, and therefore function better in all aspects of their life– it will be particularly useful for those who are regularly on call or working shift patterns.”

A ticket for the whole of the series costs £35 plus VAT for individuals and £175 plus VAT for a practice ticket which is valid for up to 10 people.

You can register here for Sleep Series 2017 and those who miss a session will be able to listen again via the Webinar Vet website.