Supporting colleagues to look after their mental health

Supporting colleagues to look after their mental health

WHETHER it is boosting morale among our family of practices or encouraging colleagues to seek help for depression or anxiety, VetPartners is committed to supporting the mental health of its employees.

Here, as we mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Steph Walsh, co-chair of the VetPartners Wellbeing Group, discusses how the mental health and wellbeing of colleagues is a high priority….

Stress, anxiety and depression can affect anyone, whatever walk of life they are in, but the veterinary community is at an increased risk of mental health issues.

According to the charity Vetlife, vets in the UK are three to four times more likely than the general population to die by suicide and the effect of a suicide on families, friends and colleagues can be devastating. Veterinary nurses may also be at risk too due to the nature of their role.

We are proud to support Mental Health Awareness Week, which is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and runs from May 10-16.

This year’s theme is nature, so we’re encouraging everyone to connect with nature and find out about its powerful benefits for our mental health.

However, we are committed to supporting colleagues 365 days of the year by highlighting ways they can seek help, whether it is accessing care or finding the right resources to put them on the path to improving their wellbeing.

At VetPartners, we have a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone can be themselves and talk about their feelings, and we want to create a great place to work caring about our people and our profession.

As a family of practices, we encourage open discussion about mental health and wellbeing so that our colleagues don’t feel there is any stigma to admitting they need support or use it as a barrier to accessing care.

Throughout the pandemic, amid tighter restrictions on our freedom and our practices, looking after mental health and wellbeing was more important than ever.

In this ever-changing situation, the care of our team members remains our priority.

VetPartners has a Wellbeing Group, led by vets Steph Walsh and James Farrell, pictured, and made up of representatives from our practices and central team, and the group looks at ways we can support each other.

The majority of our employees have access to our Health Shield, where they can claim cash back on a range of tailored benefits, from dental and optical care to counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy and a range of wellbeing treatments like hypnotherapy, reflexology, hot-stone massage and Indian head massage.

Their 24/7 helpline offers practical information and emotional support for issues relating to family, bereavement, trauma, relationships, stress-related, personal legal information, tax information, medical information, money management, alcohol/ drugs and debt support.

When looking after their mental health and wellbeing, one of the tools some people use is HALT.

Throughout the January lockdown, we encouraged our teams to promote this acronym that reminds us to take a moment – HALT – and ask ourselves if we are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

When one or more of these areas are out of balance, it is more likely we will struggle with health and overall wellbeing as a result.

Our practice teams embraced our initiative by producing posters, photos and perhaps even videos to highlight how they supported HALT in their practice.

Another of the ways of ensuring everyone has access to resources and knows which organisations they can turn to for support is our toilet door poster.

Where better than the back of a toilet door for sharing this kind of information as it can’t be overlooked and is in a place where people may seek solitude if they feel stressed or emotional.

Several colleagues have commented how it encouraged them to seek support when they needed it most.

Earlier this year, we invested in our new online learning management system, VetPartners Learning, which provides resources on personal, professional and clinical development and is available 24/7 on all devices.

Some of the resources are specifically related to wellbeing and anyone suffering from depression or anxiety could seek support.

Throughout a tough 12 months when the UK was hit by the pandemic, it has been heartening to see everyone across VetPartners pulling together, whether supporting the wellbeing of colleagues or boosting workplace morale.

We encourage our teams to consider ways to improve wellbeing  within their own practices. The VetPartners Clinical Board and Wellbeing Group joined forces to run a competition inviting our practices to tell us about their Covid year in a poster, with a prize fund of £1,000 to spend on improving wellbeing in the workplace.

To raise spirits and show how much we care, we organised online quizzes, baking contests and even encouraged colleagues to take part in weekly yoga sessions run by Kinfauns Vets receptionist Jo Thorne, pictured left.

As lockdown clouds are lifting, our wellbeing work will continue because caring for others goes right to the heart of VetPartners. It is what makes us, us and it brings us all closer together.

For media enquiries only, please contact Amanda Little, VetPartners Senior PR and Communications Manager, on 07970 198 492 or email