Examples of support helplines for the veterinary community across Europe

Working in veterinary practice and other sectors within the profession is a joy; there are so many elements that make each day different and special. There can also be times when we are dealing with animals under our care that are a challenge, explaining difficult scenarios with pet owners, and long working days where veterinarians, veterinary teams and veterinary students can feel pressure.

All of this can lead to times when we are under strain. This is when veterinary support helplines are invaluable – whether it’s to talk to someone who understands or speak with someone independent and confidentially – it can help. Below are some examples of different associations who have set up support lines. If you want to chat more about how these were achieved, please contact info@fecava.org and we can provide more information.


United Kingdom

In the UK, the independent charity Vetlife provides support for the veterinary community and their families who have emotional, health or financial concerns. Vetlife finances and manages three services in order to achieve this:
• Vetlife Helpline,
• Vetlife Health Support and
• Vetlife Financial Support.

The fully confidential Vetlife Helpline is provided by trained volunteers from the veterinary community and is available every hour of every day for phone or email support. Vetlife Helpline also provides support to the veterinary community in the Republic of Ireland by arrangement with the Irish Veterinary Benevolent Fund.

In 2022 Vetlife Helpline handled 3,503 contacts, having recorded nearly 4,000 contacts during the pandemic period of 2020.
More information here.


The EPE-network for peer support

Author: Anna Kurten

The EPE-network was initiated in August 2021 by a colleague, Anna Pasanen, as a response to the ever-growing worry of the welfare of veterinarians. The idea is simple and has proven to be effective – a veterinary helpline run by fifteen volunteering veterinarians who answer the phone four nights a week. EPE – Eläinlääkäri puhuu eläinlääkärille (in English ”a veterinarian talks to a veterinarian”) has received calls from colleagues from all fields of the profession. Topics discussed have been various: the distress of misdiagnosis, feelings of loneliness, problems with the employer, personal difficulties etc. The caller can be anonymous and the volunteers are bound by confidentiality.

The EPE-team received training from Mieli Mental Health Finland in order to be prepared for the demands of the phone calls. Fun fact: MIELI with its’ 120 years is the world’s oldest non-governmental organisation dedicated to mental health.
The EPE-team has arranged a one-day event ”EPE-day” where a mental health professional discussed different aspects of work related issues and there was time for just talking around issues that concern us all. The atmosphere was filled with compassion and support, there was a strong urge to share experiences, to listen and to be heard.
In 2022 the EPE network received the The Veterinary Deed of the Year award from the Finnish Veterinary Association.
More information here (in Finnish) and here (English)


SOSforVets for veterinarians: Assistance in emergency situations
GST – Swiss Veterinary Association Project Life Balance

Authors: Céline Fasel- Clemenz and Annik Steiner, GST Office.

The new emergency helpline of the Swiss Veterinary Association- GST supports veterinarians, TPAs, but also students of veterinary medicine in difficult life situations. The helpline is available around the clock free of charge for those affected and their relatives.
Affected persons receive support around the clock in difficult situations. Every time a contact is made, a medical expert answers in German or French, and if possible also in Italian and English. A person receiving the call makes an initial assessment of the situation and performs a triage. If it is an acute emergency situation, a referral to trained physicians and psychiatrists takes place, who initiate the immediately necessary measures. If it is not an acute emergency situation, the professional assesses whether care is indicated at the mental level or the legal, professional level or both. These individuals may be referred to the appropriate persons at the GST office who will work with professionals to find individual solutions for the individual. All information and concerns are treated confidentially. The Swiss Veterinary Association- GST offers the SOSforVets helpline in collaboration with the support network for physicians. Due to the financial contribution of the Swiss Veterinary Association – GST, the helpline is free of charge for callers. The SOSforVets helpline is also available to non-members of the Swiss Veterinary Association – GST. Third parties may also dial the telephone number, because sometimes people from the environment are aware of such a situation earlier than the affected persons themselves.

SOSforVets in a nutshell
· Free 24-hour hotline, 365 days a year
· Immediate help in emergency situations
· For veterinarians, veterinary practice assistants, students of veterinary medicine
· as well as third parties from the environment
· All information will be treated confidentially
· Language German and French
More information (German, French)


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