Sarah's Brown family with grant recipient

MMI funds research projects to look into mental health impacts of racial discrimination and moral injury

We have awarded two £20,000 grants to two separate research projects, which will look into the mental health impacts of racial discrimination and moral injury in the veterinary professions respectively.

The Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant was founded in 2019, in memory of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown who passed away in 2017, to help fund research focusing on mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary professions, including areas such as prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment.

The inaugural grant was given in 2019 to Scotland’s Rural College to identify how to better promote job satisfaction and to break the cycle of negative thoughts and poor mental wellbeing identified amongst farm vets.

This year the Mind Matters Board awarded two £20,000 grants to:

  • a joint Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS) research project entitled ‘Experiences of racism and its impacts on mental wellbeing in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people working and studying in the UK veterinary profession’. The project will be led by RVC Research Impact Officer Victoria Crossley, and BVEDS co-founder Navaratnam Partheeban. As well as gathering information about experiences of racism and their impact, the project will also determine what individuals from the BAME veterinary community think could, and should, be done to tackle racism in the veterinary professions, and gather the evidence to help design appropriate interventions for those whose mental health and wellbeing is impacted by racism and discrimination.
  • King’s College London (KCL) research project led by Professor Neil Greenberg, Dr Dominic Murphy and Dr Victoria Williamson, which will be looking at the experiences of moral injury in veterinarians and the impact that this has on mental health problems. The research will seek to understand the types of moral injuries veterinary professionals might encounter, their prevalence, the perceptions amongst professionals around how these moral injuries come about, and what support is needed when they occur. It is hoped that the research will ultimately help the development of tailored psychological treatments for veterinary professionals who experience moral injury.

Responding to the news of being awarded the grant, Professor Neil Greenberg and Dr Victoria Williamson said: “The King’s College London research team are delighted to have been awarded this funding to explore veterinarians’ experiences of moral injury. Morally injurious events are experiences which violate one’s moral or ethical code and, while moral injury is not a mental illness in its own right, it can lead to the development of mental health difficulties including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidality.

“This research project aims to explore the impact of moral injury on the wellbeing of veterinarians and their perceptions of need for support following such experiences. The findings are expected to inform future clinical practice and potentially improve the training, treatment and support available for veterinarians to help prevent moral injury and help those who suffer with it to recover.”

Victoria Crossley and Navaratnam Partheeban said: “Despite studies showing a clear association between experiences of racism and poor mental health and wellbeing, little formal research has investigated everyday racism in the UK veterinary profession and its impact on mental health. We hope that our study will help the wider sector to acknowledge and better understand the issues that exist in this area, and inform design and monitoring of interventions to tackle racism.

“As a profession that prides itself on compassion and humanity, it is important for us to remember that not only are our clients and patients important, but also our own people. The benefits of diversity within workforces are well-documented, and we hope that our findings can be used to help bring about the individual, systemic and institutional change that is required to retain diverse talent and support BAME people, to promote a stronger, more inclusive profession.

“We feel immensely honoured to receive this award in memory of Sarah Brown and are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to carry out this important research. We can’t wait to get started!”

Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, added: “Though it was a tough decision to choose the recipients of this year’s grants as all the applications were of a high standard, these two stood out because they are investigating two issues that we know are there, but which we don’t yet have the evidence-base for to really determine their prevalence, their impact and how we, as a profession, can tackle them more effectively.

“They also stood out for being solutions-focused in that the evidence will be used to find the best interventions and support mechanisms for those whose mental health has been impacted by racism and moral injury. We would like to congratulate the two research teams and look forward to working with them over the coming years.”

Both grants will be formally awarded at a special Honours & Awards evening event on Thursday 10 September and both teams will also be invited to present the results of their research at the biannual Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium in 2023.