The burden of mental ill health is significant in our profession and has been well documented. A number of causes have been put forward and are being explored.
I have had two significant direct experiences of mental ill health. My father (a farmer) unexpectedly took his life when I was ten years old and I finally realised that I had burned out after five years at the equine practice of Rossdale and Partners in Newmarket providing anaesthesia and critical care as well as first opinion work to the racing yards. The concept of self preservation and boundaries were non existent and frankly I was not sure how I should get help without prejudicing my career. I managed to get the help in needed and changed the direction of my professional life. Listen to Mark’s story in a video.
The ubiquitous availability of smartphones provided an opportunity so that people could explore information in the privacy of their own hands. “Vets In Mind” as an app was born. The project aims to collate information and examples of good practice intended to help all those in the veterinary community:
• Needing to identify their mental health status and where to get help for themselves
• Looking to support or help a colleague
• Wanting to initiate a wellbeing programme and support mental health awareness in their veterinary practice
The Vets in Mind app does not pretend to be a single solution or replace existing excellent resources. But it is believed that it would be a useful resource to sit alongside other initiatives and existing programmes already in place and run by various associations, organisations, charities and support groups around the world, and to signpost all members of the veterinary team (veterinarians, nurses, recipients, practice managers etc. who may be in practice, academia or companies and charities in the veterinary market) to appropriate and credible sources of support and information and is fully functional on IOS and Android platforms. More about the Vets in Mind in the video.
The app was launched in January 2021 on both Apple and Google app stores and has two main objectives: firstly to help clinical team members triage themselves, colleagues, friends or family members via well validated mental health tools in anxiety, depression, burn out, depression and suicidal thoughts and then signpost people to where they can get immediate help in the case of a major crisis and for others who are becoming aware of mental ill health in themselves or others, but are not sure how to find out more in practical and confidential ways.
A key feature of the app is that no identifiers are required to use the app or website, ensuring anonymity and enabling users can look up information without any perceived or real risk of people being identified.
Vets in Mind is already providing relevant content that has been translated into Ukrainian by bilingual members of the Ukrainian community and is also seeking to develop a strong partnership with FECAVA to provide similar resources and support to members of FECAVA associations
Mark Johnston MA VetMB PhD MRCVS
Founder of the Vets in Mind Alliance (also CEO of Vetstream)