The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) says World Mental Health Day on October 10 is the perfect time to celebrate the strength of the veterinary community in tackling mental wellbeing issues.
BSAVA president John Chitty says veterinary professionals must take a balanced and holistic view of their lives and develop strong teams at local, regional, national and even international level, to build resilience in dealing with stress and dispelling the stigma about mental illness that may prevent people seeking help.
Mental ill-health will affect one in four people over the next 12 months and in England, one in six people experience a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. There are particular issues within the veterinary profession, with higher than average rates of suicide, and patterns of distress, anxiety and depression, among other illnesses.
The BSAVA will launch a new ‘Beyond the Clinics’ personal development stream at Congress next April, including a non-clinical series of lectures on physical and mental health, and, with RCVS, it hosts a series of Mind Matters CPD courses across all 12 regions – all of which were sold out in 2016.
BSAVA President John Chitty encouraged veterinary professionals to consider World Mental Health Day as a marker post to think more deeply about the mental health of their practice teams and wider veterinary community, and aim to help reduce feelings of isolation and depression.
“This is a great opportunity to raise awareness for what is a very serious problem in our profession - we all know someone within the veterinary community who has had mental health problems - and I am very proud that it is a strong community trying to tackle this issue,” he said.
“But it is not just about one day – we can’t forget about it for the rest of the year. We all live extremely busy lives and if we are not functioning as people, we are not going to function as professionals.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to inviting colleagues to Beyond The Clinics on the Sunday of Congress, which is a great opportunity for the whole profession to think more deeply about how we look after each other, by increasing knowledge about mental wellbeing, building resilience in dealing with stress and dispelling the stigma about mental illness that may prevent people seeking help.
“I’m also very proud of the BSAVA’s involvement in the Mind Matters initiative, set up by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. All 12 of our regions hosted sold out courses during 2016, which is part of the profession’s response to research showing that the stress of working in modern veterinary practices has taken a heavy toll on the mental wellbeing of many staff.”
Limited places are available for the BSAVA’s Mind Matters regional meetings – more information is available here.
The meetings provide training for all members of the practice team to help them recognise any signs of mental problems in their colleagues – and, perhaps, in themselves. The training aims to help individuals know how to communicate with people they are concerned about and offers tips on stress management and staying well.
John Chitty, who has suffered mental health difficulties himself, added it was important to reach out and respond as a profession to this serious problem.
“My main advice is to be aware of others, be supportive, understand and appreciate them, notice when someone isn’t acting normally, and also remember that you are in a team together with people to talk to and you should do that. You can’t take stress away completely but you can’t put everything on the practice owner, this is a whole team responsibility – upwards, sidewards and downwards.”
World Mental Health Day (10 October) is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organisation with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.