MMI and VPMA logos

MMI and VPMA join forces to launch new mental health for managers courses

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and the Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) have launched a series of courses designed to help those in management roles in a veterinary practice or other veterinary workplace support colleagues with mental health issues.

These day-long courses, each running from 9.30-5:00pm, will cover: basic mental health awareness; HR employment regulations and the legal position; the role of the line manager in supporting someone with poor mental health; making reasonable adjustments; planning ‘return to work’; and designing and putting in place wellbeing action plans.

The courses will be run by Connecting with People, a social enterprise that develops and delivers high-quality training to employees with healthcare or safeguarding responsibilities.

Helen Sanderson, former VPMA President and representative on the MMI Taskforce, said: “If you do one thing this year for your team I strongly recommend it be attending one of these courses. It provided me with invaluable information in recognising stress and depression in a team, as well as giving useful tools and tips on how to discuss and handle situations. I would encourage anyone to attend.”

Lizzie Lockett, Director of Mind Matters, added: “It has been wonderful to see the response from the veterinary profession to our mental health awareness training sessions, but we know that managers can face particular challenges in supporting their team’s mental health. Meanwhile, line managers play a key role in whether or not someone feels comfortable discussing a mental health issue, goes on to seek help, and, ultimately, returns to the workforce

“We therefore designed these courses to provide very practical information for those in managerial positions, covering legal requirements as well as how to implement wellbeing strategies for colleagues.”

Thanks to financial support from Mind Matters and the VPMA, each course costs £80 for VPMA members and £120 for non-members.

To book a place, please visit the Mind Matters Eventbrite page.

Big Ben, Westminster

RCVS joins forces with Doctors’ Support Network

At the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday 31 January 2017 the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) joined forces to launch the ‘&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 campaign was officially launched at an event sponsored by Kevan Jones MP (Labour, North Durham) who has spoken about his own experiences with depression, and featured first-hand testimonials from senior veterinary surgeons and doctors who have experienced mental ill-health.

‘&me’ is a collaboration between Mind Matters and the Doctors’ Support Network, which provides peer support for doctors and medical students with mental health concerns.

In introducing the campaign Kevan Jones MP said: “The key message I have today in regards to mental health is talking about it and trying to get it out of the dark corners rather than it being something you are ashamed to talk about. That is how we get people to help themselves with their own condition and to seek help. The other key thing is not to write people off if they have a mental illness.”

The floor was then opened to personal stories from those who have lived experience of mental ill-health. Dr Louise Freeman is Vice-Chair of the Doctors’ Support Network and was diagnosed with depression in 2009 as a result of the way in which her return to work was handled after having time off work as an emergency medicine consultant following a bereavement.

She said: “This experience made me think that doctors with mental health problems were in a small minority and that it was probably our own fault anyway. Both impressions are completely wrong. The incidence of mental health problems is one in four people in any one year and is actually higher for doctors, who are often slower to seek help than non-medics. The good news is that well supported doctors have excellent treatment outcomes.

“During my own return to work, I was told by my clinical lead that they had ‘always thought that I was a mental health problem waiting to happen.’ I think this says more about them than it did about me! On reflection, yes that was true, but only in as much as this applies to all of us during our lives.

“I hope that the ‘&me’ campaign can start to address this by encouraging senior healthcare professionals, who are currently well, but have experienced mental health problems, to disclose that they have ‘been there themselves’. I think that this will help to normalise mental ill health for healthcare professionals and therefore remove some of the barriers to unwell professionals seeking help at an earlier stage. Overall this would be better for healthcare professionals, their colleagues and their patients.”

David Bartram, Director of Outcomes Research for the international operations of the largest global animal health company and a member of the RCVS governing Council, spoke next. He gave his perspective on coming to terms with a mental health condition in a profession that has some stigma attached to it.

A number of years ago David attempted suicide following the breakup of his marriage and explains what happened from there: “I just thought I was stressed – after all, who wouldn’t be in those circumstances? But in fact I was becoming progressively more unwell. What started as worry, early waking and palpitations – which I recognised – led to patterns of thinking which I did not recognise as being disordered. I felt trapped and worthless – suicide was the only escape. From a medical perspective, my biological, social and psychological risk factors had converged and tipped me into major depression.

“That was the first of multiple suicide attempts and several prolonged stays in hospital. Over a three-year period I spent 12 months as a psychiatric inpatient. I was treated with antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers, talking therapies and electroconvulsive therapy.

“But now thankfully I am well – and I have been for 14 years…. To what do I attribute my recovery? A mixture of medical treatment, psychological therapies, supportive friends and family, rest and time – they all contributed, probably in similar measure.”

He added that while his episode of mental ill-health does not define him it has changed him in a positive way and that no one is immune from it.

Dr Jonathan Richardson is Group Medical Director for Community Services at the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust who had a mental health condition when he was a medical student and spoke about how it is possible to flourish in your career with a mental health diagnosis.

“I was unwell as a teenager with a physical illness and later as a medical student with a mental illness… these two experiences crystallised my drive to become a doctor and my own approach to healthcare. I wanted to be able to deliver the care that I was fortunate to receive. I wanted to be as patient-centred and compassionate with the patients I would serve, in the same way as the teams who delivered my care. I was lucky to have support when I was unwell from very good friends, some from school and some from university; and a very close family. I have been able to recover.

“It is 24 years since my mental illness. I now work in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest mental and learning disability health trusts in England – and one of only two to be rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission…. I do not feel that my illnesses have stopped me.”

Dr Angelika Luehrs is the chair of the Doctors’ Support Network and a consultant psychiatrist who was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder while she was a trainee psychiatrist. She said: “When I asked for advice about how to access help one of the answer I got was one of ‘whatever you do, make sure that you don’t have any mental illness in your medical records otherwise you will never go anywhere in your medical career. However, getting the diagnosis and help from a Consultant Psychiatrist was the best thing that ever happened.”

She added: “The reality is that my diagnosis has not stopped me – I have been a consultant psychiatrist since 2010 with the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, last year I was appointed as medical lead for West Wiltshire including early intervention, intensive services and primary care liaison services. I have a special interest in supporting doctors with mental illness and I am delighted to be appointed by the newly launched GP Health Service as a special advisor for complex mental health cases.”

The last speaker was veterinary surgeon Neil Smith, Chair of Mind Matters, who outlined how to participate in the campaign.

“This event is just the start… the real challenge is to start to get this message out to the wider professions. Stigma is a difficult thing to tackle, but the good news is that changing our minds is within the power of every individual to do,” he said.

Following the launch the ‘&me’ campaign is now encouraging other senior health professionals to step forward and talk about their own experiences with mental ill-health, especially as both medical doctors and veterinary surgeons have higher suicide rates than the general population but often have more reluctance to seek help because of the impact it may have on their career.

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 email Dr Louise Freeman on

On social media tweets about the campaign will be sent from @vetmindmatters and @DocSupportNet using the hashtag #AndMe

Well being Awards logo 2016

Wellbeing Award winners announced

We have announced the winners of our joint inaugural Wellbeing Awards, run in partnership with the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS).

The winners are:

  • Large Practice (51 or more staff) – White Cross Vets, which employs 175 people across 16 sites around the country
  • Medium Practice (between 16 and 50 staff) – Valley Vets in Cardiff
  • Small Practice (up to 15 staff) – 387 Veterinary Centre in Walsall, West Midlands

The Awards are designed to celebrate those practices that truly support and motivate their staff, recognising that, while it is certainly critical that there is publicity around increased stress and mental health issues in veterinary practice, it is also important to highlight those practices where teams are happy and fulfilled.

Nick Stuart, SPVS Senior Vice-President, said: “We were so impressed with all the entries, not just our three winners. Initiatives, such as a hamper for ‘the loveliest person of the month’, a day off for people on their birthday, and in-house training on mental health and wellbeing help define the culture of a practice.”

Practices could enter one of three categories, determined by their number of full time equivalent staff. The judges then scored practices for: internal communication; opportunities for training and development; team building and networking; and initiatives to reduce stress and promote wellbeing and resilience.

Tim Harrison, Managing Director of White Cross Vets, said: “It’s not just about how bosses should behave morally, it makes pure business sense in a people-led profession where there is a shortage of vets and nurses. If you look after your team you will reduce turnover and that’s good for morale, good for your clients and ultimately, good for your profitability.”

White Cross Vets is the only veterinary practice in the country to achieve three stars in the list of the Sunday Times’ ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’. Mr Harrison admits that several of their initiatives came from trawling through the Sunday Times supplement to see what other small businesses were doing for their staff propecia australia. “The idea of a day off on your birthday and a birthday cake came from Timpsons, the shoe repair and key cutting chain,” he says. “Initiatives like that cost very little but can mean a lot to your team.”

Registered veterinary nurse Nichi Tanner, the Practice Manager of Valley Vets, said that attending a Mind Matters mental health awareness session in Cardiff had inspired them to organise in-house training from an award-winning mental health trainer, Trevor Bell, which received excellent feedback from their team. Their extensive year-round calendar of team social events also appealed to the judges.

For example, Nichi explained how the annual summer BBQ was great for morale: “The team love the fact that the ‘bosses’ personally prepare huge feasts of food and drink for them and their partners at the summer BBQ. Our Directors believe that, as well as funding events, the hard work of shopping, preparing, cooking, hosting and washing up makes their thank you that little bit more special.”

The owner of 387 Veterinary Centre, veterinary surgeon Hamish Duncan, and his wife and practice manager, Rachel Duncan, believe that good communication and mutual appreciation is key to wellbeing.

Rachel gave an example: “We introduced a ‘Gratitude Board’ to encourage team members to appreciate each other more, and for vets and nurses to share positive feedback from clients. It has had quite an impact and I hear people saying thank you to each other around the practice much more now.”

Lizzie Lockett, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative and one of the judges for the Awards, said that the panel was hugely impressed with the range and imagination across all the entries, not only the winners.

She said: “UK vet practices are showing real leadership when it comes to talking the wellbeing of their teams seriously. The work we are doing here to address mental health issues is being held up as a template by veterinary professions in other countries, and also by those in other professions. And the hard work that’s being put in on the ground by practices such as our award-winners is what makes a real difference.”

Stephanie Writer-Davies, SPVS President, will present the Awards in the Opening Ceremony of VPMA/SPVS Congress 2017 at Celtic Manor near Newport on Friday 27 January. The winners will then share their best ideas at a panel in the Mind Matters Initiative lecture stream, chaired by Dr Radha Modgil. a GP and co-host of Radio 1’s The Surgery.

The SPVS Wellbeing Awards judges were: Lizzie Lockett, RCVS Deputy CEO and Mind Matters Initiative Director; Richard Hillman MRCVS, who spoke about his own experiences of mental health problems at last year’s SPVS/VPMA Congress; Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity, Mind; Rosie Allister MRCVS, Director of Vetlife and Chair of Vetlife Helpline; Neil Smith MRCVS, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative; and Chair of judging, Nick Stuart MRCVS.

There will be an opportunity to take photographs of the winners immediately following the Opening Ceremony, which will finish at approximately 10:00. Photographs will also be available on request after the event.

MMI symposium 2017

Inaugural Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium demonstrates the value of collaboration

The inaugural Mind Matters Initiative ‘Research Symposium’ took place at the University of Edinburgh on Friday 20 January 2017 giving academics and researchers working in the field of veterinary mental health the opportunity to share their insights both with each other and members of the professions.

The Symposium was organised with Rosie Allister, Chair of Vet Helpline and Director of Vetlife, and introduced by Mind Matters Initiative Chair and former RCVS President Colonel Neil Smith (pictured right) around the theme of ‘understanding and supporting veterinary mental health’ and was attended by nearly 100 people.

The morning comprised presentations from three plenary speakers. The first talk was delivered by Professor Stephen Platt from the University of Edinburgh regarding the concept of ‘suicide clusters’ and how it might relate to the veterinary professions; the second, by Professor Debbie Cohen from Cardiff University, was about disclosing and assessing mental ill-health amongst medical students and medical professionals; and the final talk was delivered by Chris O’Sullivan from the Mental Health Foundation about protecting and improving mental health at work.

The afternoon session comprised a series of four ‘short-talk streams’ in which a number of academics and researchers gave 15-minute talks on their area of study. These covered a variety of topics including the humour-types within UK veterinary practice, the transition from vet student to veterinary surgeon, embedding resilience training into the veterinary curriculum, how veterinary nurses cope with stress in practice and the effectiveness of mindfulness-based webinars for veterinary professionals.

The day was wrapped up with a workshop led by Lizzie Lockett, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, in which delegates were asked to prioritise what they thought were the most important areas of veterinary mental health research for the future. Suggestions included on the impact of physical exercise on mental health, what is ‘normal’ in terms of perceptions of stress in practice and whether a peer-support programme could work on a national basis.

Speaking of the day Lizzie added: “The Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium was a ground-breaking day that gave those working and with an interest in this area to opportunity to share research, ideas and lived experience. A collaborative and positive spirit was evident throughout the day and this shows that a community is being developed in this area which can share and discuss ideas , develop solutions and conduct future research.

“While research into this area may be at a relatively early stage ,the day demonstrated that there is a very real desire to improve our knowledge and, by doing so, better understand the causes of mental ill-health in the veterinary professions and the treatment and preventative measures that can be put in place to reduce the stigma and help people before they reach a crisis point.”

The Webinar Vet logo

RCVS to chair International Virtual Congress session on mental health

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) will be taking part in The Webinar Vet’s International Virtual Congress on 20 January 2017 from 7-9pm. Neil Smith, RCVS Council member and Chair of the College’s Mind Matters Initiative, will chair a series of talks focusing on resilience and stress reduction, which will be free to join.

The College launched the Mind Matters Initiative 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: ‘Managing work stress in veterinary practice’ with Dr Elinor O’Connor, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at the University of Manchester; ‘Veterinary resilience, more good days than bad’ with Dr Jenny Moffett, Managing Director of SkillsTree Ltd; and ‘An introduction to mindfulness’ with Dr Mike Scanlan, Director of Kind Minds Health.

This is the second year that we have been involved with the International Virtual Congress, chairing a ‘happiness symposium’ at last year’s Congress for which over 700 people tuned in.

Register now for the stream on <a href="" onclick="__gaTracker('send', 'event', 'outbound-article', 'http://www.theinternationalwebinarvet propecia online’, ‘The Webinar Vet website’);” style=”color: #45b2a8;” target=”_blank”>The Webinar Vet website.

St Leonards Hall

Speaker line-up for inaugural Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium confirmed

The agenda for the first Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Research Symposium, which takes place on Friday 20 January 2017 at the University of Edinburgh’s Pollock Halls, has now been confirmed and has, as its overarching theme, ‘Understanding and supporting veterinary mental health’.

The event takes place between 8.30am and 4.30pm and begins with a welcome and introduction to the MMI from former RCVS President and MMI Chair Neil Smith.

Following the introduction there will be a number of plenary talks from those involved in research into mental health and wellbeing. Speakers and topics include Professor Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow about understanding suicidal behaviour, Professor Debbie Cohen from the Centre for Psychosocial Research about disclosing and assessing mental ill-health in the medical profession and Chris O’Sullivan, Head of Workplace Mental Health at Mental Health Foundation about protecting and improving mental health at work.

These talks are by an expert panel session at 11.45am. The afternoon will then comprise two sessions of short talks divided into two steams comprising 14 presentations in total. A call for submissions was made last November and topics covered by the talks include empathy and burnout, professional skills development and wellbeing in primary care practitioners, how humour can effect employees and the working environment, and occupational stress and psychological wellbeing in UK veterinary surgeons. Each stream will culminate in a speaker panel Q&A.

At 3.30pm delegates will take part in an hour-long workshop facilitated by Lizzie Locket, MMI Director, to identify priority areas for veterinary mental health research.

The full agenda and tickets, which cost £30 (or £54 including a networking dinner on the evening of Thursday 19 January) are available from the our Eventbrite page.

Dr Radha Modgil

Wellbeing on the mind for RCVS at SPVS/ VPMA Congress 2017

At this year’s Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS)/ Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) Congress we will be focusing on our current work around mental health awareness and wellbeing.

The Congress takes place at the Celtic Manor Resort near Newport, Wales from Friday 27 to Saturday 28 January 2017 with a full day’s programme based around the Mind Matters Initiative chaired by Dr Radha Modgil (pictured right), a GP and co-host of Radio 1’s The Surgery on the Friday.

The programme starts at 10.40am with a talk from Dr Modgil entitled ‘Work-related mental health’ in which she will outline how to recognise common mental health problems in oneself and colleagues and the steps to take once these have been identified.

At 12 noon this will be followed by the unveiling of the winners of the Mind Matters Initiative-supported SPVS Wellbeing Award which recognises practices that work to ensure a happy, healthy workforce.

Veterinary coach and mentor Carolyne Crowe adds her experience of working with practices across the UK to manage stress and tackle work-related mental health problems, while Nick Stuart, Senior Vice President of SPVS and chair of the Wellbeing Awards judging panel, shares ideas from some of the other highly commended entries.

The final session (at 2pm) is a discussion about how to build resilience in the workplace chaired by Dr Radha Modgil and featuring psychologists Andy McCann and Jamie Baker and Rosie Allister, a veterinary surgeon who has studied mental health and wellbeing within the profession with a focus on building resilience in undergraduates to help them cope with the stresses of clinical practice.

On the Saturday, from 10.00am to 11.30am, Mind Matters Initiative Director Lizzie Lockett and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Council member Kate Richards will lead a workshop to consider how to improve mental health and wellbeing in large animal, equine and mixed practice.

The College will also have a team throughout the course of the event at stand C35 ready to answer any questions about our current initiatives including the Practice Standards Scheme, the Vet and VN Futures projects, the confidential reporting line and the ongoing review of our continuing professional development policy.

As part of the overall theme visitors to the stand will be encouraged to share their wellbeing tips via social media and will also have the chance of winning a Fitbit Alta wristband if they correctly guess the answer to a question posed by the College as part of the Congress’ overall exhibition competition.

Emma Smith

Surrey Practice Manager wins Mind Matters Initiative competition at London Vet Show

Emma Smith, Practice Manager at Pets First Ltd Runnymede Hill Vet Hospital in Surrey, was the winner of the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) competition held at our stand at the London Vet Show earlier this month (ExCel, 17-18 November 2016).

The MMI, a project which began in 2015 that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those in the veterinary team, including students, veterinary nurses, veterinary surgeons and practice managers, was the focus of our stand at the London Vet Show.

The stand featured tips gathered from a month-long social media campaign in September, which saw daily suggestions for how to improve wellbeing from members of the veterinary profession and mental health experts. Visitors were asked to share their own wellbeing tips and be in with a chance to win a FitBit Alta worth £100, with the winner being chosen by MMI Chair Neil Smith and Project Director Lizzie Lockett.

The wellbeing tips given during the social media campaign can be found on the MMI’s Twitter account (@vetmindmatters), along with all the tips from the day including the winner’s: “Pack a lunch, plan your day, and praise (giving and receiving)”.

Mike Scanlan

From ‘mind full’ to mindful with series of stress-reduction webinars

Next year the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI), in conjunction with The Webinar Vet, will hold a series of mindfulness-based stress-reduction webinars, which aim to improve wellbeing of all those in the veterinary team including students, veterinary nurses, veterinary surgeons and practice managers.

Registrations are now open for the eight one-hour webinars, which start on Wednesday 1 February 2017 and will run on every Wednesday night from 8pm to 9pm until 22 March 2017.

The sessions will be led by Dr Mike Scanlan, a Mental Health and Wellbeing Consultant, and are based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn from the Centre for Mindfulness Medicine and Research at the University of Massachusetts.

Lizzie Lockett, the Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, says: “Mindfulness is based on the practical skills of noticing, mindful movement and meditation that can help with physical and psychological problems as well as ongoing life challenges.

“Both scientific research and reports from course participants, including those who took part in a similar series of webinars earlier this year, indicate that there are a wealth of physical and psychological benefits to be gained from participating in mindfulness activities.”

Mike adds: “The sessions will help those who take part develop mindfulness through meditation practices, gentle movement and body aware exercises. There are also informal practices such as bringing mindful attention to ordinary, everyday experiences like brushing your teeth, eating a mouthful of food or waiting for a train.”

A ticket for an individual covering the whole eight weeks is available to purchase for £40 (plus VAT) or a practice ticket for up to 10 team members can be purchased for just £200 (plus VAT). Those who are not able to listen to every session live will be able to listen again to the sessions shortly after they are broadcast.

To purchase tickets and register please visit the webinar vet website.

St Leonards Hall

Registrations now open for first Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium

The inaugural Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Research Symposium will take place on Friday, 20 January 2017, at the University of Edinburgh’s Pollock Halls, under the theme ‘Understanding and supporting veterinary mental health’.

The event will bring together those involved in research into mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary profession in order to share latest findings and consider what interventions may be developed from this knowledge. There will also be the opportunity to identify the gaps in the current research jigsaw.

Keynote speakers will include Professor Rory O’Connor of the Suicide Behaviour Research Lab at the University of Glasgow, Dr Debbie Cohen, Chair of the Faculty of Occupational Health at Cardiff University, and Chris O’Sullivan of the Mental Health Foundation.

The event will be preceded, on the evening of Thursday 19 January 2017, by an optional informal dinner at the beautiful St Leonard’s Hall, for a chance to network with colleagues and start the discussion.

Tickets for the Symposium cost £30 (or £54 including dinner on 19 January), and are available on our Eventbrite page.


Call for submissions

A call for submissions from those keen to do short talks or present posters at the Symposium is also now open. Papers are particularly invited in the following areas:

  1. The veterinary life course: career stages, transitions and wellbeing
  2. Veterinary mental health: building the evidence base
  3. Mental health and wellbeing in veterinary education
  4. Workplace health
  5. Veterinary nurse mental health and wellbeing
  6. Support for veterinary professionals in distress
  7. New graduate mental health and support
  8. Wildcard – other veterinary mental health and wellbeing research projects are welcome to apply via this stream


Presentations should be in the format of a 12-minute oral presentation (10 minutes, plus two for questions) or an A1 or A0 poster. Those wishing to apply should submit an abstract clearly marked ‘poster’ or ‘oral presentation’. The title should be 15 words or fewer. The abstract should include author(s) first name(s), followed by surname(s), institution of affiliation and country. The body of the text should be no longer than 250 words and include: background; clear and explicit aims and objectives, hypotheses or research questions; methods; results; discussion; and conclusion buy generic propecia.

All abstracts should be submitted as Word documents to Rosie Allister no later than 23:59 (GMT) on 28 November 2016. Applicants will be notified if they have been successful within 14 days of this date. Speakers whose applications are successful will receive complimentary registration for the Symposium (does not include travel and accommodation costs or the dinner) but are encouraged to register in the first instance, to secure their place.



London Vet show logo - pink horse

College to focus on Mind Matters at the London Vet Show

Come to visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) at this year’s London Vet Show from 17 to 18 November at the ExCel, London, where we will be promoting a number of our projects and initiatives.

The focus of the stand (Q58) will be the Mind Matters Initiative, a project launched in 2014 that aims 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 stand will feature tips gathered from a month-long social media campaign in September, which saw daily suggestions for how to improve wellbeing from members of the veterinary profession and mental health experts. Visitors will be able to share their own wellbeing tips and be in with a chance to win a FitBit Alta worth £100. The wellbeing tips given during the social media campaign can be found on the Mind Matters Initiative’s Twitter account.

We will also be co-hosting a ‘Breakfast on Brexit’ meeting with the British Veterinary Association (BVA) at 8.30am on Friday 18 November. Delegates are invited to attend and hear from Chris Tufnell, RCVS President, and Alick Simmons, Chair of BVA’s Brexit Working Group and former UK Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, about our Brexit Presidential Taskforce and BVA’s Brexit Working Group, respectively. The audience will be encouraged to contribute to the discussion, with comments, feedback and suggestions.

The Vet Futures project, a joint initiative between the College and the BVA, will also be featured on the stand. The project was launched at London Vet Show in 2014, and the Vet Futures Action Plan, which detailed how the organisations would deliver on the recommendations of the 2015 Vet Futures Report, was launched at the Vet Futures Summit on 4 July 2016.

Furthermore, we will be holding a series of free 20-minute Practice Standards Scheme surgeries with PSS Lead Assessor Pam Mosedale, to assist those practices that are thinking of joining the Scheme, have an upcoming inspection, or are applying for an optional PSS award. To sign up, please email Alicia Menendez-Buick, PSS Officer, or visit the RCVS stand, Q58.

Well being Awards logo 2016

New SPVS/Mind Matters Wellbeing Award

The Mind Matters Initiative is supporting the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) as they turn the spotlight on veterinary practices where wellbeing is valued, and invite them to share what they are doing via a new ‘Wellbeing Award’.

The award will recognise those practices with management systems and initiatives that motivate and engage their staff and who can demonstrate their commitment to being a better place to work.

Entries can be from branch surgeries or whole practices and there are three different categories, depending on number of employees. The prize for each category includes two registrations and banquet tickets for Veterinary Practice Management Association/SPVS Congress 2017.

Launching the awards at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress on 9 April, SPVS Senior Vice-President, Nick Stuart, said: “There is much discussion within the profession about preventing mental illness and suicide. While this is vitally important, there can be a danger of painting too gloomy a picture of modern UK veterinary practice.

“These awards will help the understanding of mental wellbeing and the role this can play in job satisfaction, with the knock on effects of reducing staff turnover and increasing profitability. The awards recognise that there are many practices out there where the staff are motivated, feel valued, and look forward to coming into work each day!”

Neil Smith, Chair of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative, added: “We are delighted to support this exciting new award. Celebrating what practices are doing well is important in terms of inspiring change, offering positive case studies and, perhaps most importantly, maintaining a positive approach to wellbeing as a key activity for all of the veterinary team.”

The awards website includes a Wellbeing Checklist which anyone can complete, whether or not they are entering, to audit their own practice performance and use to pick up tips on other activities they could implement.

The closing date for entries is 30 September 2016.

Mind Matters Logo

Mind Matters Initiative teams up with The Webinar Vet to offer online mindfulness course

As part of our Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) the College has teamed up with The Webinar Vet to offer an online series of eight one-hour mindfulness-based stress reduction sessions, entitled ‘Turning mind-full to mindful’.

The evidence base for the positive impact of mindfulness has been growing over recent years. The practice, which grew out of Buddhist traditions of meditation, has been credited with helping to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, improve sleep patterns and general wellbeing, and even make positive physical changes to the brain.

The University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre defines mindfulness as: “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with compassion, and open-hearted curiosity. Through cultivating mindful awareness, we discover how to live in the present moment rather than brooding about the past or worrying about the future.”

The sessions will be run by Dr Mike Scanlan, of, who has run similar courses for human medical professionals.

“This is course is not for those who are in crisis, who should seek direct medical help, but aims to give members of the veterinary team the skills they need to help control their mental landscape in a positive way,” says Mike.

“People may be wary about embarking on a mindfulness course and feel that to gain benefits will be time-consuming. But achieving even ten minutes of mindfulness each day can bring real benefits.

“There are now randomised control trials which show that mindfulness delivered online is effective, and it’s just so easy to access that I would encourage any member of the veterinary team to sign up.”

Comments from attendees of Mike’s previous courses include:

  • “This eight-week course has been so valuable, I’ve learnt the art of mindfulness and now put it into daily practice.”
  • “Mindfulness helps me to calm and quieten my whirling thoughts, to relax and de-stress.”
  • “This course has changed my life – I now live well by gently checking in with myself and asking if what I am doing is working for me, if it isn’t, I stop doing it and do something else.”

“I am delighted that we have been able to work with Dr Mike Scanlan and The Webinar Vet to deliver this innovative programme,” says Lizzie Lockett, MMI Project Director.

“Since MMI began we have been hearing great things about the power of mindfulness. The challenge has been how to make it accessible, given practitioners’ busy lives and the stigma that stops some people from feeling able to access any form of wellbeing support in a public way.

“This webinar-based series can be accessed from home, at any time, and is a perfect entry-point to the benefits of mindfulness. Through MMI funding, we hope that the pricing of the sessions will make them accessible to all.”

The sessions will run from 8-9pm, commencing on Tuesday 26 April and finishing on Tuesday 14 June. Delegates ought not to worry if they miss a session, as they will be recorded and available to listen on demand.

A one-to-one chat function will be available during the webinars, and Mike will be on hand for support online and by phone between sessions. And, of course, anyone can access confidential help at any time via the VetLife Helpline (0303 040 2551) or confidential email service.

The eight-session series will cost £40 +VAT, which has been discounted from £200 + VAT thanks to MMI funding. A practice ticket will also be available at £200 +VAT for up to ten members of staff.

Eleanor Ferguson

Mental health on the agenda at SPVS VPMA Congress

Later this month we will be putting mental health on the agenda at this year’s joint Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) Congress.

RCVS staff will be on stand 35 of the exhibition area at the Congress, which takes place at the Celtic Manor Resort on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 January, where they will be available to answer any queries.

The main focus on Friday will be our Mind Matters Initiative, which has collaborated with SPVS and the VPMA to support a stream on mental health and wellbeing which will be chaired by Claudia Hammond, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘All in the Mind’.

The stream will start at 10.40am with a panel session chaired by Claudia Hammond with Alastair Campbell, whose father was a vet and has candidly spoken about his own mental health problems, entitled ‘The Dangers of Stigma’.

At 1.45pm, Claudia Hammond will give a talk called ‘Emotional Rollercoaster’, looking at different emotions and how our brain produces them, followed at 3.30pm by a presentation on ‘Mental Health in Practice’ by Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity Mind.

On Saturday, we will be giving two talks about our concerns investigation process and the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) respectively.

At 11.15am Eleanor Ferguson (pictured above right), our Head of Professional Conduct , will be leading a session on the ‘Team Approach to RCVS Complaints Procedures’ looking at what practices can do to reduce the chance of complaints being made and how they can engage with the process when a concern has been raised.

At 12.15pm Pam Mosedale, the Practice Standards Team Acting Lead Assessor, will be running a session called ‘Do you offer ‘Outstanding’ Client Service?’ which will be looking at the new PSS Awards and how practices can prepare for them, with a focus on the Client Service Award.

On the morning of the same day, between 9.40am and 10.40am, Pam will also be holding workshops for equine and large animal practices on preparing for the new awards and assessment process for the PSS.

Neil smith

Mind Matters Initiative to host Wellness Symposium at Virtual Congress 2016

As part of our Mind Matters Initiative, we have collaborated with The Webinar Vet to offer a free ‘Wellness Symposium’ for the veterinary professions as part of the 4th International Webinar Vet Virtual Congress 2016.

The symposium takes place on Friday 8 January between 7pm and 9pm, and focuses on how to develop and improve wellbeing in your working life.

The symposium will feature four speakers:

  • Neil Smith (pictured right), RCVS Council member and the Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, who will be introducing the initiative and its aims;
  • Veterinary coach and mentor Carolyne Crowe will give a talk entitled ‘How to cope with work-related stress’;
  • Medical nurse Dr Mike Scanlan will be giving a talk called ‘Live more mindfully and increase your psychological flexibility – a pathway to happiness’;
  • RCVS Council member and veterinary mental health campaigner David Bartram will be talking about how to enhance personal mental wellbeing.

Speaking about the symposium, Neil Smith said: “We are very glad to be able to bring these presentations to the profession for free via The Webinar Vet, particularly as, over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that mental ill-health is a significant issue facing the veterinary professions.

“With its focus on wellbeing and resourcefulness, I hope this content will help provide all members of the veterinary team with the tools they need to improve their mental health and their ability to cope with the stress and pressure that often accompanies life in veterinary practice.”

Visit The Webinar Vet to find out more and register for the Wellbeing Symposium. Recordings of the symposium will be made available after the event.

Mind Matters Logo

Mind Matters Initiative trials mental health awareness courses

We are trialling a series of mental health awareness courses for members of the practice team over the coming weeks.

The Mind Matters Initiative aims to make a real difference to those in the veterinary team struggling with mental health issues.

Mental ill-health will affect one in four people in the UK over the next 12 months. There are particular issues within the veterinary team, with elevated rates of suicide compared with the population at large, and patterns of distress, anxiety and depression, among other illnesses.

The training aims to help individuals better understand the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health and know how to communicate with people they are concerned about. They are not counselling courses, but provide basic information about how to manage important first conversations, and understand how to point people to relevant sources of professional help. The training also offers tips on stress management and staying well.

The trial will comprise four courses, with variations in location, duration, time of day and course provider.

Following the trial an assessment will be made about which course type(s) worked best and a series rolled out across the UK next year.

The dates are as follows, please register via Eventbrite using the links underneath each event:


Venue: Holiday Inn, Winchester, Telegraph Way, Morn Hill, Winchester SO21 1HZ

Date: 23 November 2015

Time: 2pm-5pm



Venue: Holt Lodge Hotel, Wrexham Road, Wrexham  LL13 9SW

Date: 27 November 2015

Time: 1.30pm-4.30pm



Venue: Newcastle Marriott, Gosforth Park, High Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 5HN

Date: 30 November 2015

Time: 9am-5pm

Lunch provided



Venue: Ramada Coventry, The Butts, Earlsdon Coventry West Midlands CV1 3GG

Date: 8 December 2015

Time: 6pm-9.30pm

A buffet supper will be served from 6pm with the course starting at 6.30pm



“The courses are open to all members of the veterinary practice team, or veterinary surgeons or nurses working in other environments,” explains Lizzie Lockett, MMI Project Director.

“We would ideally like two people from each participating workplace to attend, with one being a senior person within the organisation, as we wish to ensure that those attending are able to cascade information across the organisation effectively when they return, and are well supported themselves.

“However, it’s appreciated that in some practices this may not be possible, so it should not be seen as a barrier to attending.”

The courses, worth about £175 per delegate, are free to attend as they are part of a trial, but we will require feedback from the delegates to help assess how effective the course has been.

The training can be considered as continuing professional development.


About the courses

The Winchester and Newcastle courses are run by Mental Health First Aid England. MHFA came to England in 2007 and was developed and launched under the Department of Health: National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE) as part of a national approach to improving public mental health. In 2009 it became a Community Interest Company (CIC).

Mental Health First Aid is an educational course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue. In the same way as we learn physical first aid, Mental Health First Aid teaches you how to recognise those crucial warning signs of mental ill health.

Developed in Australia in 2000 and now internationally recognised in 23 countries, the MHFA course teaches people how to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, provide help on a first aid basis and effectively guide someone towards the right support services.

To date MHFA has trained over 1,200 instructors in England who have delivered the MHFA courses to over 100,000 people.


The Wrexham and Coventry courses are run by Connecting with People. It is evidence-based training and has been co-designed by healthcare practitioners, academics and senior business leaders who have worked in high pressure organisations.

The training is based on the latest medical research and now forms part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ (RCPsych) education programme and is a key module on the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) accredited Primary Care Mental Health Education (PRIMHE) Diploma in Mental Health.

It is a founding project within the College of Medicine. Connecting with People is also cited in the RCPsych College Report on self-harm and suicide and has secured the support of the RCGP/RCPsych Primary Care Mental Health Forum and the RCGP Rural and Remote Forum.

If you have any questions, please contact Mind Matters Project Director Lizzie Lockett, on or 020 7202 0725.

Ground-breaking mental health conference for the medical professions

We have joined forces with Maudsley Learning to host a ground-breaking conference to address mental health issues across the medical professions.

The one-day event, Medical Minds Matter, will take place on 28 October 2015 at Maudsley Learning’s ORTUS learning and events centre in South London. It aims better to understand the mental health challenges affecting medical professionals – such as veterinary surgeons, doctors, dentists and pharmacists – and to facilitate the sharing of learning and best practice around supporting individuals and addressing the issues.

The conference is part of the Mind Matters Initiative, a five-year project funded and run by the RCVS to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness in the veterinary profession, develop a culture where help-seeking is accepted, improve access to sources of appropriate help, and facilitate the sharing of best practice in terms of intervention and support.

“Medical Minds Matter will be a unique event, bringing together a diverse range of medical professionals for the first time to tackle an issue that is, sadly, one that looms large for many professions,” says Colonel Neil Smith, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative.

“There is much we can learn from each other, and we hope that the event will help delegates develop a shared understanding of common issues and successful

interventions, as well as paving the way for future collaborations across the professions.”

The day will include speakers from organisations including The Royal College of General Practitioners, the University of Bath, King’s College London, Pharmacist Support, the Doctors’ Support Network, the SAFEMED Programme, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and the Dentists’ Health Support Programme.

Workshop sessions will focus on shared themes, such as peer support and resilience building; cognitive behavioural therapy; and, tackling stigma. There will also be the opportunity to share ideas for future collaboration.

Tickets, which cost £45 for professionals and £25 for students and researchers, are available on the Eventbrite page.

For more information, please view the flyer.

£1m funding announcement for Mind Matters

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has announced a total of £1 million funding to address mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession over the next five years.

It shows the College’s commitment in this vital area, and is a substantial amount that will really help change lives.

Mind Matters was launched in December 2014 and our Operational Board has now agreed £100K of funding for the first year of the initiative, with a view to a similar amount per year for the subsequent four years.

Meanwhile, we intend to contribute approximately £500K over the next five years to the Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme (VSHSP). This is a continuation of previous funding, effectively doubling our contribution.

The VSHSP, independently run by the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, offers a confidential service that aims to combat problems with alcohol, drugs, eating disorders and other addictive and mental health issues.

“I am delighted that we have £500K of new funding over the next five years to dedicate to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary team, together with the increase to our support for the VSHSP,” says Neil Smith, Mind Matters’ Chair. “It shows the College’s commitment in this vital area, and is a substantial amount that will really help change lives.”

The funding will be reviewed annually as part of our budgeting process.

Mind Matters activities will fall into five streams:

  • Learning and understanding best practice – research within the veterinary profession, for example, into occupational stress factors; and among other related professions and private and public sector organisations that have successfully tackled similar issues.
  • Changing the culture – a programme of communications activities to help generate a positive environment for discussion, reduce stigma, increase awareness and the ability to identify risks, and encourage help-seeking behaviour.
  • Intervention: personal level – financial and other support for existing services, such as the Vet Helpline and Veterinary Surgeons Health Support Programme, together with an investigation into what more may be required to support those in need.
  • Intervention: supporting the supporters – training and guidance for those who may be working or living with someone who needs assistance, in order to help supporters spot and understand signs of stress and mental illness, and help the person seek expert help.
  • Making changes – working closely with the joint RCVS/British Veterinary Association Vet Futures project to help identify aspects of how the profession is structured and run (from student to retirement) that exacerbate stress and mental health problems – and consider how they may be addressed.

Mind Matters is supported by a taskforce, comprising the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, the British Veterinary Association, the British Veterinary Nursing Association, the Veterinary Practice Management Association, the Veterinary Schools Council, the Veterinary Defence Society, the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons and the Association of Veterinary Students.


Rosie Allister

Vet Futures poll asks profession about mental ill-health

This month, Vet Futures, the joint RCVS/BVA initiative, asks members of the profession whether they would recognise mental health problems in their colleagues.

The question is posed in relation to the second Vet Futures guest blog which, this January, is written by Rosie Allister, the Chair of the Vet Helpline and a Director of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund.

She argues that members of the profession need to be more open about the mental health challenges they experience and not be afraid to seek help.

Rosie, who is also a researcher at the University of Edinburgh specialising in veterinary wellbeing, writes that members of the profession should be more willing to open up about their own mental health problems and intervene by talking and listening to colleagues who may be suffering from mental ill-health.

For example, she says: “Looking to the future, we need to better understand who is most at risk, how to reach out to them, and how we can start to change our culture so that it is OK to ask for help.”

She also proposes that, due to the caring nature of the occupation and high client expectations, members of the profession routinely put work and animal welfare ahead of their own needs and that, in order for there to be wider cultural change, individuals need to change their own attitudes towards asking for help.

This includes the discussion of ‘taboo subjects’ such as suicide.

“Perhaps all of us have to start trying to change our culture to one that is more accepting and supportive and looks out for those in need even when they aren’t able to reach out themselves”, she writes.

She writes following the December 2014 launch of our Mind Matters Initiative, which aims to change the culture of the profession by reducing stigma surrounding mental ill-health and encouraging more open discussion.

This month’s Vet Futures poll asks: “Could you recognise the signs of mental ill-health in a colleague?” and we would encourage members of the profession to take part in the poll so that we can better understand attitudes towards and experiences of mental health issues.

Meanwhile, December’s poll had asked “Do you think your veterinary education prepared you for running a business?” for which the majority (84%) said “no”, with just 3% saying “yes” and 13% saying “partially”.

For confidential support members of the profession can call the Vet Helpline on 0303 040 2551 where calls are answered 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who have experience of the profession. Alternatively, they can use a confidential email service which can be accessed through the Vet Helpline website.

Two people chatting

New mental health initiative launched

We are today launching the Mind Matters Initiative, to help address mental health and wellbeing issues within the veterinary profession.

“Mental Health is a significant issue for the veterinary profession. Most of us have experience of colleagues or ourselves having problems. The Mind Matters Initiative is a pan-profession project, and I am very pleased that there is active engagement from across the various veterinary associations and stakeholders,” says Neil Smith, RCVS Vice-President and Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative.

“The RCVS already contributes through our Health Protocol and support of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund. The Mind Matters Initiative seeks to work more proactively by increasing the accessibility and acceptance of support, encouraging a culture that is better equipped to talk and deal with stress and related mental health issues, and, ultimately, by helping to reduce such triggers within the profession.”

It takes real courage to reach out for help when you’re struggling, and we know it can be especially tough for vets.

Rosie Allister

The first Mind Matters Initiative action is providing funding to ensure that callers to the Vet Helpline, a completely confidential support service which is part of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund and run by volunteers, are put directly through to a person, rather than having to leave a message.

“We are able to offer confidential, non-judgemental support to many vets, VNs, vet students and members of their families who call us in distress, but we know there are more who are put off by the prospect of leaving a message,” says Rosie Allister, Chair of Vet Helpline.

“It takes real courage to reach out for help when you’re struggling, and we know it can be especially tough for vets. Although we respond to calls quickly, callers need to speak to someone immediately, and not a message system, when they are in crisis.

“Through the Mind Matters Initiative funding we are able to put in place a service that connects a caller directly to a human being, which could make a real difference for people who call.”

The new Vet Helpline system will be in place on 22 December, in time for Christmas, which can be a difficult time for many people. The Vet Helpline number is 0303 040 2551 and there is also a confidential email service, accessible via

The Mind Matters Initiative will be sustained over an initial three-year period, and will include five streams of activity:

  • Learning and understanding best practice – research within the veterinary profession, for example, into occupational stress factors; and among other related professions and private and public sector organisations that have successfully tackled similar issues
  • Changing the culture – a programme of communications activities to help generate a positive environment for discussion, reduce stigma, increase awareness and the ability to identify risks, and encourage help-seeking behaviour
  • Intervention: personal level – financial and other support for existing services, such as Vet Helpline and Veterinary Surgeons Health Support Programme, together with an investigation into what more may be required to support those in need
  • Intervention: supporting the supporters – training and guidance for those who may be working or living with someone who needs assistance, in order to help supporters spot and understand signs of stress and mental illness, and help the person seek expert help
  • Making changes – working closely with the joint RCVS/British Veterinary Association Vet Futures project to help identify aspects of how the profession is structured and run (from student to retirement) that exacerbate stress and mental health problems – and consider how they may be addressed

The Mind Matters Initiative is supported by a group comprising the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, the British Veterinary Association, the British Veterinary Nursing Association, the Veterinary Practice Management Association, the Veterinary Schools Council, the Veterinary Defence Society and the Association of Veterinary Students.