Figures showing almost half of young vets had concerns about their mental health in the past year are almost certainly under-reported, according to Vetlife Helpline chairman Rosie Allister.

Rosie Allister
Stigma around mental health still exists, says Vetlife Helpline chairman Rosie Allister.

Dr Allister, a vet and researcher in mental health at The University of Edinburgh, said her own work with vet students had shown 75% who had a mental health problem said they would not talk about it with colleagues.

“What we’re actually seeing is probably a large under-reporting,” she said. “The reason for that is a lot of stigma around mental health still does exist in the profession.”

BVA survey

Her comments followed the release of the latest BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, which showed 45% of vets aged younger than 35 expressed concerns about their mental well-being in the past year.

While those younger than 35 were among the most likely to seek support, half of vets younger than 35 with concerns did not seek support and 45% of all vets reported they weren’t sure, or could not recognise, the signs of mental ill health in a colleague.

The survey also revealed 70% of young vets felt unsupported during their first year and professional development phase of employment.

Unsurprising figures

Dr Allister said: “These figures don’t surprise me at all, but there will also be a proportion of people who don’t talk about it. The fact the report said 70% of respondents to the survey didn’t feel supported is a concern. That figure does fit with research I’ve done recently as well.”

However, she said it should be remembered a proportion of young vets thought they were getting excellent support.

  • Further comment and reaction can be found in the 3 October issue of Veterinary Times.
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