A joint project from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), is asking members of the profession if they would recognise mental health problems in their colleagues.

The question is posed in relation to the second Vet Futures guest blog, which, this month, is written by Rosie Allister, chairman of Vet Helpline and a director of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund.

She argues members of the profession need to be more open about the mental health challenges they experience and not be afraid to seek help.

Ms Allister, who is also a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in veterinary well-being, writes members of the profession should be more willing to open up about their own mental health problems and intervene by talking and listening to colleagues who may be suffering from mental ill-health.

“Looking to the future, we need to better understand who is most at risk, how to reach out to them, and how we can start to change our culture, so it is okay to ask for help,” she said.

Ms Allister’s blog also proposes that, due to the caring nature of the occupation and high client expectations, members of the profession routinely put work and animal welfare ahead of their own needs.

For there to be wider cultural change, she writes, individuals need to change their own attitudes towards asking for help. This includes the discussion of “taboo subjects” such as suicide.

“Perhaps all of us have to start trying to change our culture to one that is more accepting and supportive and looks out for those in need, even when they aren’t able to reach out themselves”, she said.

The blog comes shortly after the December 2014 launch of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative, which aims to change the culture of the profession by reducing stigma surrounding mental ill-health and encouraging more open discussion.

Vet Futures aims to help the veterinary profession shape its own future by identifying trends and, to better understand the profession’s attitudes towards and experiences of mental health issues, this month’s online poll will ask: “Could you recognise the signs of mental ill-health in a colleague?”

Meanwhile, December’s poll had asked “Do you think your veterinary education prepared you for running a business?” for which the majority (84%) said “no”, with just 3% saying “yes” and 13% saying “partially”.

To read Ms Allister’s blog, take part in the poll and contribute to the debate visit: www.vetfutures.org.uk/discuss
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