AVMA and RCVS join forces on veterinary mental health

Published on September 25, 2018

Veterinarians and veterinary organizations across the world share a commitment to enhancing the wellbeing and mental health of veterinary team members. Now, the AVMA and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have joined forces to promote wellbeing across the profession.

Our two organizations will work together on joint projects to advocate positive behavior and support for mental health across the veterinary team. We’ll collaborate on developing evidence-based programs, and we’ll share best practices around interventions. The partnership builds on the RCVS’ Mind Matters Initiative in the United Kingdom and the AVMA's Wellbeing and Peer Assistance Initiative.

The AVMA and RCVS issued a joint statement affirming the importance that both organizations place on a healthy and sustainable profession. AVMA leaders met in July during the 2018 AVMA Convention with Professor Stuart Reid, chair of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative, and both he and AVMA President Dr. John de Jong praised the new collaboration.

“In collaborating with the AVMA, we will be able to address more effectively the pressing issues around mental health and reinforce the many positives of working in such a wonderful profession,” said Professor Reid. "The RCVS and AVMA have been discussing how we might best share ideas, resources and best practices for some time.”

"As two highly respected veterinary organizations in the increasingly global veterinary community, it is both logical and important that the AVMA and RCVS stand together speaking to the topic of mental health and wellbeing," said Dr. de Jong.

AVMA’s programs to address mental health issues include the development of a workplace wellbeing education program, and education and outreach related to optimizing wellbeing, creating healthy workplace cultures, setting boundaries, and conflict transformation. The wellbeing section of AVMA’s website provides a wide range of resources for the veterinary team, including tools for self-assessment, workplace wellbeing programs, self-care planning, and much more. AVMA and SAVMA members also can take advantage of a free suicide-prevention training program to learn how to identify and help friends and colleagues who might be in crisis.

The RCVS’ Mind Matters Initiative addresses mental ill-health within the veterinary team by tackling systemic issues that put individuals at risk; protecting those who may work in suboptimal conditions by providing them with training and tools such as mindfulness and personal wellbeing solutions; and supporting those who need specific help by funding and promoting independent sources of one-to-one assistance.

The full text of the AVMA-RCVS joint statement follows:

We believe that for veterinary professionals to realize their full potential and the global veterinary profession to remain sustainable, maintaining high levels of mental health and wellbeing for all members of the veterinary team is a priority.

Improving veterinary mental health and wellbeing has a positive impact on individuals, the profession at large and, ultimately, animal health and welfare, and public health. Our approach for supporting mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession includes the following:

Prevent: addressing the systemic issues that lead to poor levels of mental health, including the risk of suicide, and sub-optimal wellbeing across the veterinary team. This includes researching the issues, and developing and advocating policies and interventions that are supportive of positive mental health.

Protect: providing and promoting the skills and knowledge required by individuals and organisations to increase levels of wellbeing and improve mental health in veterinary medicine. Making such interventions evidence-based and widely accessible.

Support: ensuring suitable expert support is available to veterinary professionals who need it, provided in a confidential and safe environment, and accessible without fear of judgement.

Furthermore, we commit to ensuring that veterinary professionals with mental health issues are treated fairly and without discrimination.

We will reduce the stigma and prejudice around mental ill-health through education, advocacy and access to services. We will work to promote a safe and supportive culture in which individuals are able to seek appropriate help and, ultimately, flourish.

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