The veterinary profession could tackle poor mental health among students and graduates by tailoring feedback to help them adopt a more appropriate mindset.

Research from The University of Edinburgh suggests students’ mental health may be linked to their approach to learning.

According to the findings, those who believed their intelligence level to be at a “fixed” position demonstrated poorer mental health than those who thought they could improve their lot.

mindsetPromoting positivity

Therefore, changing the way assessments are conducted and feedback is given to promote a more positive attitude towards learning, could help individuals adopt more appropriate mindsets and improve psychological well-being into the bargain, the research said.

Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, are becoming more commonplace among UK university students, to the extent the number seeking counselling has risen by almost a third in the past four years.

Previous studies found students’ mindset relating to intelligence was influenced by the type of praise given by parents and teachers in addition to the way they were assessed.


Researchers at the university’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies used a questionnaire to assess mindset and psychological well-being in 148 veterinary students.

Rachel Whittington, lecturer in professional studies at the veterinary school, said: “We’re interested in how we can give our students and graduates the best chances of a fulfilling and successful career, while promoting positive psychological well-being.

“The results confirmed what we expected; we felt people who believed they could improve with better strategies or effort would have good psychological well-being, but we were able to demonstrate a stronger correlation than we had anticipated.”

Mindset recognition

Dr Whittington said: “Learning more about mindset is really helpful in improving our understanding of why we sometimes react in a helpless way and just want to give up.

“Most people will realise they sometimes have a fixed mindset about a certain situation they are in. Just recognising we are responding in a fixed way can really help us approach any difficulty with a more growth mindset. It allows us to reflect on what happened and improve for the future, rather than giving up.

“Nurturing a growth mindset and a reflective response to problems is something that can be addressed by the whole practice team, as well as individuals.”

  • Read the full story in the 15 May issue of Veterinary Times.
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