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 recruitment@rcvs.org.uk. 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 vicechair@dsn.org.uk.

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 www.vetwellbeingawards.org.uk.

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 www.vetsupportni.co.uk.

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 vicechair@dsn.org.uk.

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.

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 vicechair@dsn.org.uk.

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="http://www.theinternationalwebinarvet.com/stream/rcvs-pre-congress-day" onclick="__gaTracker('send', 'event', 'outbound-article', 'http://www.theinternationalwebinarvet propecia online canada.com/stream/rcvs-pre-congress-day’, ‘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)”.