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MMI to run Neurodiversity stream at BSAVA Congress

MMI have partnered with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association to run a neurodiversity stream as part of the annual BSAVA Congress.

The congress, which is due to take place at the Manchester Central Convention Complex from 23 – 25 March 2023, will include over 130 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) covering a variety of disciplines and learning styles – from lectures and panel discussions to interactive sessions and free practical CPD workshops.

The neurodiversity stream will be held in the Exchange Auditorium on Friday 24 March and will consist of a number of sessions covering a wide range of sessions surrounding neurodiversity, including the keynote speech entitled ‘Neurodiversity and integration: bridging two worlds’ to be given by founding director of ADHD Girls, Samantha Hiew. Other sessions on neurodiversity throughout the day include:

  • Exploring neurodiversity
  • Different not less
  • Neurodiversity – the challenges of diagnosis
  • Neurodiversity in veterinary teams – the importance of allyship
  • Communication considerations
  • Supporting neurodivergent clients
  • Supporting neurodivergent vet and vet nursing students
  • Moving forward – how can we cultivate more inclusive working?

Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “MMI is delighted to be partnering with BSAVA to run this incredibly important stream. It is estimated that around 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent and whilst there is definitely more awareness surrounding the benefits of embracing a neurodivergent workforce and supporting neurodivergent individuals within the workplace, there is still much more to be done.

“Neurodiversity simply means that the brain functions, learns and processes information in a slightly different way to those who are considered neurotypical. Conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders come under the neurodivergent umbrella.

“At MMI, we have been keen to bring neurodiversity to the forefront of our work. In the past year this has included the creation of our Neurodiversity Resource Hub, as well as funding a research project into identifying and addressing workplace stressors for autistic veterinary professionals.

“There is huge strength to be found in diversity of thinking, however, we know that neurodivergent individuals may sometimes face challenges. It is therefore vital to ensure that all individuals working in the veterinary professions feel supported to be who they are in order to thrive in the workplace.

“We are really looking forward to continuing our neurodiversity work in the future and would like to thank the BSAVA for continuing to provide a platform for these vital conversations.”

Andy Green, Vice Chair of the BSAVA Congress Programme Committee said: “It has never been more important to understand, connect with and support all the members of our veterinary teams, of whom a considerable number may be neurodivergent. The same is true for many pet owners and clients.

“We are delighted to be able to provide a platform in partnership with the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative to explore this important subject and help to promote a greater understanding of what it actually means to be neurodivergent, along with practical ways that practices can understand, embrace and support neurodivergent members of the work force and community.”

Tickets for BSAVA Congress are available on the BSAVA Congress website and click the following links to visit our MMI Neurodiversity Resource Hub and for information on the autism research project.

Graphic illustration of workplace activity with VN Futures and MMI logos

Mind Matters and VN Futures expand training collaboration

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and VN Futures project are expanding their training collaboration to include self-compassion and anxiety workshops.

MMI and VN Futures have a long-standing working relationship and their common aims have seen them work together in a number of different capacities over the past few years. This has included undertaking joint research into the wellbeing and mental health of veterinary nurses, running an online student wellbeing discussion forum and, as part of their recent training collaboration, coming together to expand the reach of MMI’s civility and psychological safety training sessions.

The newest addition to the training collaboration includes a number of new evidence-based workshops on anxiety and self-compassion.  

Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “We know that working in the veterinary professions is challenging and evidence shows that veterinary professionals are at higher risk of suffering from common mental health problems such as anxiety and burnout than that of the general population.

“Using insights gathered from previous joint VN Futures and MMI ventures, we are proud to be expanding our training collaboration to provide targeted support which has the capacity to actively make a tangible difference to the professions.

“When it comes to mental health, wellbeing, and the curation of positive workplace cultures, there is no quick fix – it takes time and dedication from all involved. We are grateful for the support of VN Futures as we work together to help create this positive shift.”

Jill Macdonald, VN Futures Project Lead, said: “At VN Futures, we aim to ensure that veterinary nursing is a vibrant, rewarding and sustainable profession and supporting mental health and wellbeing is a vital part of this. Veterinary nurses are an essential part of the veterinary team and creating workplaces where the entire team is able to thrive and feel valued and respected is of utmost importance. Working with MMI to expand the reach of the civility and psychological safety training sessions has proven effective in promoting this concept.

“Like our civility and psychological safety training, our new anxiety and self-compassion workshops are open to everyone in the veterinary team and are designed to provide people with the skills needed to create long lasting, sustainable positive change.

“We hope delegates will find the sessions useful and will apply the skills they have learned to support themselves and those around them both now and in the future.”

Initial training dates are as listed below and will take place in person (sessions cost £15 per person):

For more training sessions, including the joint MMI and VN Futures Civility and Psychological Safety training sessions, visit our training page.

Sarah Brown Grant graphic

Mind Matters opens applications for £20,000 mental health research grant

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) is inviting veterinary mental health researchers to apply for the 2023 Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant.

The £20,000 grant, which was set up in memory of vet, RCVS Council member and mental health campaigner Sarah Brown, has been awarded every year since 2019 and has so far provided funding for 5 innovative research projects, each of which focus on different areas of mental health within the veterinary professions. Past project topics have included:

As well as receiving funding for their research, previous winners have had opportunities to present their findings at conferences, including the MMI Symposium, and received support from the MMI and the RCVS to help promote their study and recruit volunteers.

Applications on an any topic relevant to veterinary mental health are welcome. However, in line with the original aim of the Sarah Brown grants and the strategic aims of MMI, particular interest will be shown to projects surrounding the following themes and topics:

  • veterinary suicide
  • those with a strong focus on mental health, rather than wellbeing/wellness
  • veterinary nurses, veterinary nursing students, and non-veterinary member of the practice team (e.g. receptionists)
  • understanding experiences of minoritised groups within the veterinary team
  • projects led by those who typically receive fewer opportunities in academia (e.g. student, minoritised groups, those with lived experience of mental health problems)

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “Over the past four years, we have been fortunate to support some truly fantastic research projects within the veterinary mental health sphere. Sarah was a strong mental health and wellbeing advocate with a particular passion for ensuring that those working in the veterinary professions were confident, happy, resilient and well supported. We are grateful to Sarah’s family for giving us their blessing and support to help continue her legacy through the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant.

“The grant is open to anyone with a relevant research idea, whether that be a highly experienced researcher, or someone just starting out in their career. All applications are anonymised and will be judged based on their quality, originality and relevance to the profession.

“Mental health research is of vital importance, both in theory and practice, and forms a vital part of our work at MMI. Our past projects have already proven to have real tangible benefits to veterinary teams and we look forward to seeing how our research projects will continue to drive positive change in the future.”

Anyone wishing to apply for the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant can find more information on the dedicated Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant page, where an application form is also available to download. Applications should be sent to Lisa Quigley on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk by 5pm on Wednesday 31 May 2023. The award will be formally presented at the 2023 Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium taking place in November 2023, where the winner will also be invited to present their work.

Innovation wellbeing icon

MMI releases new mental health and wellbeing training opportunities for 2023

Mind Matters Initiative has developed a range of new mental health and wellbeing training opportunities for the veterinary professions for 2023.

Expanding on the training available in autumn 2022, which was launched based on the results of an extensive training pilot, MMI is offering a total of 14 sessions taking place both online and in person over the next few months. Sessions will be running from January to April 2023. The courses will cover areas that have been identified as priority topics from previous MMI surveys, feedback from the professions, and evaluation of the training pilots.

Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “Last year was a busy year for MMI and saw the successful launch of our brand new training programme. Ensuring that our new training offering was comprehensive and matched the needs of the professions was a top priority for 2022 and will continue to be so for 2023.

“Mental health and wellbeing are impacted by a whole host of structural and societal factors and maintaining a healthy workforce goes far beyond supporting people on an individual level. Whilst it is undoubtedly important to provide people with the skills they need to look after themselves, we are aiming to expand on this by providing individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to recognise and address wider collective issues. For example, the importance of creating and maintaining a positive workplace culture.

“We hope those attending our sessions find them useful and we will, of course, continue to take on feedback to ensure our training remains as relevant and impactful as possible.”

Session dates and specific topics are as follows and are available to book via our training page:

Mental Health First Aid (£30 in-person)

9am – 5pm

Psychological Safety and Civility (£20 in-person, £15 online)

In-person – 9am – 4pm

Online – 9am – 1pm

Sustaining Your Emotional Health (£15 in-person)

2pm – 5pm

For more information on the training courses, visit our training page.

Abi Hanson

My Mind Matters Campfire Chats Reflections

When I first joined the RCVS as the Mind Matters Initiative Officer in June 2021, I, like many others found myself thrust into a new job and a new industry in a primarily virtual world.

The pandemic was still rife and finding that all important connection was more important than ever before. People had slowly started going back into workplaces, but everything was still very unpredictable. Everyone still had to be hugely cautious and making any in person connections was somewhat challenging.

That’s why I was delighted when I first heard about the Mind Matters Campfire Chats, which took off in January 2021 as a way of bringing the veterinary community together to speak about important topics that mattered most to them. I was even more excited (if not somewhat nervous as an industry newbie!) to hear that as part of my role I would be heading them up. I would be able to choose the content, the panellists and coordinate the whole of the upcoming series. We have now run a total of four Campfire Chat series and have had nearly 20 chats!

The great thing about the Campfire Chats, is that I can honestly say I have left every single chat feeling more positive than I did when joining the call. All the panellists and attendees have been so open and honest that each and every chat has become a really positive shared experience of learning and growing together.

Mental health has always been something extremely close to my heart, and whilst there are undoubtedly some wellbeing challenges that are more specific to the veterinary professions, mental wellbeing is something that unites us all. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or which sector we work in, we must all learn to look after our mental wellbeing. No wellbeing challenge is unique to one specific person or one specific profession.

This is why we were really eager to have a wide range of voices included in these conversations, from both within and outside of the veterinary world. It is all too easy for us to make assumptions about the thoughts, feelings and opinions of others, which is why it is so important to gain a range of perspectives on a number of different issues.

None of our Campfire Chats are ever recorded as we like to keep them as intimate as possible – people often feel less comfortable opening up if they know they are being recorded. We want the conversations to be authentic – as if we really are all sat round a real campfire having a genuine chat. The information shared is often really useful as we regularly invite experts to come and share their knowledge on a specific topic, but more often than not it’s just as interesting to see how people from different backgrounds perceive things in different ways. Varying human perspectives and experiences are fascinating and often provide value beyond knowledge alone. Learning to view things from others’ perspectives can teach us invaluable lessons.

Over the past year and a half, we have run sessions on a huge variety of topics, some summaries for which can be viewed on our Campfire Chats resource page. No matter what the topic, there are always valuable messages to take away from every chat. Some of my favourite takeaways from our panellists are as follows:

“Make sure you look after yourself and understand that you are more than your job. You are you, and that’s enough.”Overcoming Self-Doubt and Stressing Out

“Comparison is the thief of joy – there is no hierarchy when it comes to creativity so do whatever you want to do for you. Not for anyone else. It’s about the process and doing something that you find meaningful. Keep going until you find something that works for you.”The Joy of Creativity

“Being anxious, fearful, or worried is never a good thing, but it means you care. Caring makes you a bigger part of the solution than those who remain disinterested.”Combatting Climate Change Anxiety

“When we talk about differences amongst individuals, the focus is often on the challenges people face and the specific label which marks them as different. Not only is this degrading, but completely misses the point about how we as humans relate to one another.

If we turn the tables, there are so many positives to be found in difference. For example, those living with a disability are hugely resourceful and fantastic problem solvers because of the challenges they have had to learn to navigate in order to lead their lives.”Celebrating Diversity

“When you feel like you’re lacking confidence and everyone else appears self-assured, remember that everyone is feeling the same inside. Appearing confident and feeling confident are not the same thing.”Navigating Change

Despite being online, there is something distinctly different about the MMI Campfire Chats – they’re not just there to provide information but, as the above quotes show, to appeal to people on a real human level. Having recently moved into the RCVS communications team, I am no longer involved in organising the chats but still attend to take notes to share after the events. I even ended up chairing a couple of the sessions which is something I had never done before! I couldn’t imagine a more welcoming or rewarding environment in which to host an event for the first time. I was initially worried that, as a junior member of staff, I wouldn’t be senior enough to lead, but that’s part of what makes the campfire chats so brilliant – they’re for everyone as human beings, and that comes before any job title or self-imposed idea of status.

To come full circle, the Campfire Chats are all about pausing to share, learn, and grow together. This is something that is all too often forgotten in our busy hectic lives, but something that is essential in forging a collective sense of wellbeing. When we stop and listen for a while, it gives us the space to realise that we are all more similar than we might think. The Campfire Chats have proven that even when we haven’t been able to be together physically, we can always find common ground. Meaningful connection is a fundamental part of being human and speaking authentically about topics which impact each and every one of us, is something that will always unite us.