The veterinary profession has a relatively high suicide rate compared to other professions and the general public. Over the past decade the Trust has added its support to initiatives investigating mental health issues, and permanent support services such as Vet Helpline. Grants to the tune of £65,000 have been made since 2005 to a range of projects.
More recently, the Trust added its weight to the steering committee which set up VetLife. VetLife’s new website is being unveiled in at the London Vet Show in November 2011.
Investigating mental health issues
The Trust supported several projects being undertaken at Edinburgh including “An investigation of the circumstances of suicides by veterinarians” in 2007 and “Mental health, wellbeing and suicide in the veterinary profession” in 2009. Both those projects led to papers being published including:
Mellanby, R.J. (2009) Incidence of alcohol-related deaths in the veterinary profession in England and Wales, 1993-2005. The Veterinary Journal, 181 (3), September, pp. 332-335
Platt, B. (2010) Systematic review of the prevalence of suicide in veterinary surgeons. Occupational medicine, 60 (6), September, pp. 436-446
In 2009 the Trust funded a three hour suicide awareness workshop (safeTALK). This was delivered to third-year Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies undergraduates as part of their professional development curriculum. This was an effort to increase suicide awareness skills among veterinary undergraduates. Students were able to opt out of the session by contacting the course organisers. A total of 26 of 151 (17 per cent) third-year students attended the workshop, and 17 completed a feedback questionnaire. The vast majority of the students reported that after completing the workshop they were more likely or much more likely to recognise the signs of a person at risk of suicide, approach a person at risk of suicide, ask a person about suicide, and connect a person at risk of suicide with help. Five veterinary academics attended a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course, and all reported that the course was effective in improving suicide awareness and intervention skills.
The broad based collaborative network support at Edinburgh by the Trust grant enabled additional funding for other student well-being focussed projects. A pertinent example is an NHS funded project to deliver University Student Counselling Services at the EasterBush Campus.
Several research projects are still underway and we hope to update you on those in the coming months.
Funding support services
The Trust has given regular funding support to services including the BVA Regional Graduate Support Scheme and the Vet Helpline.
Access to information
The Library provides access to a range of resources on these topics. A list of useful articles published within recent years on mental health issues within the veterinary profession can be found in the ‘Related documents’ box.
Could you help?
To give a donation to enable more research, or to maintain services, please contact us at email@example.com, or call on 020 7202 0714