Mind Matters: substantial funding announced

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has announced a total of £1 million funding to address mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession over the next five years.

Mind Matters was launched in December 2014 and the RCVS Operational Board has agreed £100K of funding for the first year of the initiative, with a view to a similar amount per year for the subsequent four years.

Meanwhile, the RCVS intends to contribute approximately £500K over the next five years to the Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme (VSHSP). This is a continuation of previous funding, effectively doubling the College’s contribution. The VSHSP, independently run by the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, offers a confidential service that aims to combat problems with alcohol, drugs, eating disorders and other addictive and mental health issues.

I am delighted that we have £500K of new funding over the next five years to dedicate to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary team, together with the increase to our support for the VSHSP. It shows the College’s commitment in this vital area, and is a substantial amount that will really help change lives.
— Neil Smith, Mind Matters' Chair

The funding will be reviewed annually as part of the RCVS budgeting process.

Mind Matters activities will fall into five streams:

  • Learning and understanding best practice – research within the veterinary profession, for example, into occupational stress factors; and among other related professions and private and public sector organisations that have successfully tackled similar issues.
  • Changing the culture – a programme of communications activities to help generate a positive environment for discussion, reduce stigma, increase awareness and the ability to identify risks, and encourage help-seeking behaviour.
  • Intervention: personal level – financial and other support for existing services, such as Vet Helpline and Veterinary Surgeons Health Support Programme, together with an investigation into what more may be required to support those in need.
  • Intervention: supporting the supporters – training and guidance for those who may be working or living with someone who needs assistance, in order to help supporters spot and understand signs of stress and mental illness, and help the person seek expert help.
  • Making changes – working closely with the joint RCVS/British Veterinary Association Vet Futures project (www.vetfutures.org.uk) to help identify aspects of how the profession is structured and run (from student to retirement) that exacerbate stress and mental health problems – and consider how they may be addressed.

Mind Matters is supported by a taskforce, comprising the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, the British Veterinary Association, the British Veterinary Nursing Association, the Veterinary Practice Management Association, the Veterinary Schools Council, the Veterinary Defence Society, the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons and the Association of Veterinary Students.

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