A report has been published detailing the proceedings of last November’s Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Research Symposium, where attendees from across the veterinary professions joined MMI for a day of virtual talks given by mental health and wellbeing researchers from across the globe.
The symposium, which took place on 24 November 2021, was introduced by Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Taskforce, who welcomed almost 100 delegates to the first MMI Symposium held entirely online.
The plenary speaker was Professor Rory O’Connor, Chair of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health & Wellbeing whose talk, ‘When it is darkest: understanding suicide risk’ opened the day with an outline of his 25 years of work looking into suicide prevention. Throughout his talk, Rory discussed his recent investigation into the immediate and medium-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing, the science behind the Integrated Motivational-Volitional (IMV) models of suicidal behaviour and how to reduce the risk of suicidal ideation turning into suicidal action. Rory also touched on how vets are three to four times more likely than the general population to die by suicide.
Professor O’Connor said: “In the last 10 to 15 years there has been an increased focus in particular on psychological and psycho-social interventions for helping people who are suicidal. Although suicide is complex, interventions, even brief interventions, can be effective.”
There were also presentations from the research teams who had been awarded the MMI’s Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant in 2019 and 2020. The grant is a £20,000 fund that has been given every year since 2019 to a research project (or projects) that plan to investigate an area of veterinary mental health. The teams that presented their findings were:
- Dr Victoria Crossley and Dr Navaratnam Partheeban – Experiences of racism and its impacts on mental wellbeing in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people working and studying in the UK veterinary sector. Their talk outlined the lack of diversity in the veterinary professions and how their research aimed to understand how experiences of racism impacted BAME people working and studying in the veterinary sector.
- Dr Victoria Williamson – Experiences and impact of moral injury in UK veterinary professional wellbeing. This talk outlined what moral injury was, how experiencing it could impact a person’s mental health and how morally injurious events impacted veterinary teams’ mental wellbeing.
- Dr Kate Stephen – How farm vets cope: An exploration of how vets cope with the daily challenges of farm animal practice and how best these coping mechanisms might be developed into tools which can be easily accessed by the livestock veterinary community. This talk outlined what Kate’s team found in interviews with 31 farm vets, including students who had recently moved from vet school to farm practice. Their research found there were three ‘trigger points’ which led to a farm vet’s mental health deteriorating, which Kate discussed in detail in her talk. She concluded by outlining what employers could do to support the work/life balance of farm vets better.
The Sarah Brown Mental Health Grant talks were followed by a series of presentations from researchers and research teams from across the world. The talks were split into a number of streams spanning the morning and afternoon sessions, giving attendees the opportunity to choose which sessions they wanted to listen to. The presentations were:
- Camille K Y Chan from the University of Hong Kong: Cyberbullying and mental wellbeing of veterinarians in Hong Kong;
- Makenzie Peterson MSc from Wellbeing at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC): Veterinary intern and resident wellbeing;
- Dr Nadine Hamilton: Understanding and supporting veterinary mental health;
- Dr Brad Hill from the University of Nottingham: Integrated mental health awareness in the veterinary undergraduate curriculum;
- Sabine Tötemeyer from the University of Nottingham: Perception and impact of online mental health awareness teaching in year one during the pandemic;
- Fergus Mitchell a vet student from the University of Nottingham: The effects of an exercise programme on the mental wellbeing of veterinary students;
- Anna Garrity from Medivet, Orrell Park: Do registered veterinary nurses feel stigmatised by acknowledging stress and accessing support?;
- Mark Turner, independent quality improvement researcher: The relationship between patient safety culture and staff burnout. conundrum or cure?
- Charlotte Bullard from the British Veterinary Nursing Association: Mindset, resilience and perception of reactions to workplace challenge in RVNs;
- Kris van den Bogaard from MSD Animal Health: Explanatory research on satisfaction in the Dutch veterinary practice;
- Dr Kirstie Pickles from the University of Nottingham: Students’ perceptions of using two mental health apps during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Sabine Tötemeyer and Georgina Bladon from the University of Nottingham: On using a co-created interactive game to engage students with mental health awareness;
- Sharon Cooksey, PhD student at the University of Liverpool: Emotional intelligence and its relationship with work engagement amongst veterinary surgeons in UK veterinary practice;
The day concluded with a talk by Professor Susan Dawson, who gave an overview of what MMI had achieved since its launch in 2015, and the ambitious plans MMI has for its next five-year strategy with its focus on: research; supporting students; the veterinary nursing profession; equality, diversity, inclusion & civility; and widening the conversation beyond mental health awareness. A consultation on the MMI Strategy is currently ongoing and can be accessed via our resources page.
Susan ended the day by explaining that MMI would continue to work with different organisations from across the veterinary industry to keep mental health at the forefront of people’s minds, to break down stigma and move towards a more positive future for the professions.
The full report of the day’s talks can be found here.