A VET, who overcame her own mental health challenges, is helping other members of the profession to tackle stress.
Steph Walsh knows only too well the pressures facing members of the veterinary profession as she has battled anxiety and depression.
Now the vet at Rutland House Veterinary Hospital in St Helens has spoken openly about her own experiences in a new video, aimed at encouraging colleagues not to suffer in silence but to seek help and support.
The video is part of pioneering work being done by veterinary group, VetPartners Limited, to support employees’ mental health, happiness and wellbeing.
VetPartners set up a Wellbeing Group, which is co-chaired by Steph, and as well as the launch of the video, the group has provided employees with an information booklet providing advice and ways to seek help.
Record numbers of veterinary professionals are reaching out for help from the Vetlife Helpline, which provides confidential support. Over the past five years, contact with the 24/7 support service has risen by 500%
Common reasons why veterinary professionals contact Vetlife Helpline are mental health concerns, workplace stress and employment and career issues
As well as providing useful telephone numbers and practical advice, Steph hopes discussing how she overcame challenges in her own life on the video will encourage colleagues to seek help.
“I first experienced mental ill health around eight years ago while working in small animal practice,” she said.
“I thought I only had a chest infection as I was struggling to breathe, but the doctor asked me if everything was OK. Then one day I walked into work, arrived in my consult room door and slid down the wall and sat on the floor crying.
“I’ve had periods of counselling, which has been incredibly useful and made me aware of my own mental health and that of people around me.”
Steph has used her own experiences to support colleagues by co-chairing the VetPartners Wellbeing Group with James Farrell, a surgeon from Woodcroft Vets in Cheadle, near Stockport.
The group holds regular meetings at VetPartners’ headquarters in York and has set up initiatives, including a toilet door poster campaign to provide helpline numbers and contacts for employees who need support.
Their latest project, the wellbeing booklet, includes the warning signs of mental health illness, advice on how to tackle it and where to seek support.
Steph said: “I’m very proud of the work we are doing to address stress, anxiety and depression in the profession. I’m so pleased to be part of the Wellbeing Group and love the work we are doing.
“Unfortunately, there is still a stigma around mental health and there is a lot of room for improvement in the wider veterinary profession.
“VetPartners wants to be veterinary group of choice for practices and employees so we recognise there is a problem in the profession and we want to be proactive to improve things.”
For media enquiries, please contact Amanda Little, VetPartners Head of PR and Communications, on 0191 300 1181 or email firstname.lastname@example.org