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MMI launches free, online mental health training programme for rural vets

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will be working with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England to deliver a free, online training programme for vets in isolated and rural areas across the UK, as well as vets working in ambulatory practice.

The training programme has been launched in recognition of some of the challenges that rural and ambulatory vets face, particularly around isolation and loneliness. This programme aims to form a network of UK-wide rural Mental Health First Aiders in the vet profession starting with rural geographies. It will bolster the understanding of common mental health conditions, help individuals identify signs of mental ill-health both in themselves and others, promote self-care and provide the tools for how to effectively support people experiencing poor mental health.

Angharad Belcher, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “Veterinary surgeons working in rural and ambulatory services are often integral members of their local communities with a deep connection with farmers, animal owners and the wider rural community. However, as MMI-funded research conducted by Scotland’s Rural College with vets has demonstrated, veterinary work in such areas can often be very challenging which is compounded by working alone or having relatively limited contact with professional colleagues.

“Effective early intervention in cases of mental ill-health and distress can have significant impacts, and so this course will arm participants with the relevant knowledge of how to identify mental health issues and will allow them to signpost people to the most effective and relevant sources of help.”

Vicki Cockman, Head of Client Delivery at MHFA England, said: “It is wonderful to see the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s commitment to reaching all its vets in the UK, no matter their location. MHFA England is proud to be working with RCVS on this initiative. Our evidence based Mental Health First Aid training gives people an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing.

“This approach will help vets support the communities that they work closely with and help them manage their own mental health. Those trained will have the confidence to start a conversation, reassure and support a person in distress and the tools to create and consider their own self-care strategies.”

The free training, fully funded by MMI, will be delivered online in four sessions which are each two-and-a-half hours long. They require around 90 mins of work beforehand and the groups will be split into morning and afternoon sessions, both receiving the same training. MMI will be announcing its plans for a rural network shortly and welcomes all veterinary professionals with mental health first aid training, regardless of training provider, to join it.

The dates of the training sessions are Monday 11, Tuesday 12, Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 July. Registrations to join the course need to be made by the 5pm Friday 17 June and can be made via the MMI training page. For those who are unsure about joining the course, MHFA England has organised an online question and answers session ahead of the application date at 7pm on Tuesday 7 June. To attend the Q & A contact Lacey Pitcher, Mind Matters Outreach and Engagement Senior Officer on l.pitcher@rcvs.org.uk.