Mental Health Awareness

13 April 2016

The BSAVA is holding a series of training sessions in mental health awareness as its contribution to the Mind Matters initiative aimed at reducing the numbers of vets and vet nurses affected by clinical depression.

Junior vice president John Chitty announced the plans at a press conference at Congress. It forms 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 of their staff.

“Vets and vet nurses are generally problem solvers and practically-mind people. So this is a way that we can provide practical support to help members in solving a problem that affects many of our colleagues, while taking advantage of the BSAVA’s strengths in organising CPD training,&” he said.

The series of 12 meetings for each of the association’s regions will take place over the next year, starting this Summer. They will provide training for all members of the practice team to help them recognise any signs of mental problems in their colleagues – and, perhaps, also in themselves.

“It will give those people the confidence to have that difficult first conversation on the subject and to signpost where the person affected can seek professional help, as well as showing how we may safeguard the mental health of ourselves and our colleagues,&” Mr Chitty said.

The Mind Matters initiative was set up by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in response to studies showing the suicide rate among veterinary surgeons is more than three times higher than that in the general population.

It aims to reduce the numbers in the profession suffering from clinical depression by increasing knowledge about mental wellbeing. It will also show how to build resilience in dealing with stress and aims to dispel the stigma about mental illness that may prevent people seeking help.

At the same meeting, the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons announced the launch of its Wellbeing Awards, aimed at recognising the efforts of veterinary clinics that provide a happy and satisfying working environment for their staff. SPVS will work with the RCVS to ensure that example of best practice are shared with colleagues around the country.

Meanwhile, the Royal College is offering its members online courses in ‘mindfulness’, the meditation-based technique that has been proven to help people cope better with everyday stress. The RCVS is also planning to hold a conference later this year to examine the latest research into mental health issues affecting medical professionals.

RCVS past president and chair of the Mind Matters initiative Neil Smith said, “I am pleased that the profession has come together on this issue. We have received valuable support from BSAVA and SPVS and there is involvement in these efforts from all members of the team – vets, vet nurses, students and practice managers. This shows that everybody is working together and that is really good for the health of the profession.&”

Details of the 12 regional training sessions will be released shortly. If you have any queries, please email