BSAVA Alba to explore mental health and peer support

25 August 2023

BSAVA Alba 2023 will see a deep dive into the topic of mental health and how to support your colleagues with speaker, Rosie Allister.

Rosie manages the VetLife Helpline, which runs 24/7 as a support service for the whole veterinary profession. Her research, based at the University of Edinburgh, looks at mental health, wellbeing at work, and suicide prevention among veterinary professionals. She has also received the British Veterinary Association Chiron Award and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Impact Award for work on veterinary mental health.

Rosie will be speaking on Saturday 23rd September in Falkirk, in two back-to-back sessions. The first of Rosie’s sessions will look at formal peer support systems including training and support structures.

If you want to get started with peer support, listening skills are a good place to start, and many veterinary professionals will be skilled in this already. It can be a case of applying empathetic and active listening which someone is already good at in a slightly different or considered way.

“Active listening is a way of listening to another person to gain a deeper understanding of what they are saying and the context in which they are saying it. It can help in lots of ways in veterinary practice.”, says Rosie. “It’s important for wellbeing at work, work engagement – feeling positive and fulfilled at work, and is associated with job satisfaction, job performance, client satisfaction, low turnover intention, and is negatively associated with burnout.”

Active listening goes hand in hand with peer support, which Rosie says is “A way of giving and receiving support and help which is rooted in respect, shared responsibility and mutual agreement.” She continued: “The main support we have at work comes from colleagues and managers – peers – this type of social support can help decrease feelings of workplace stress.” Studies suggest workplace peer support programmes may improve well-being and relationships between employees.

The second session will investigate supporting and determining decision-making capacity for clients and supporting clients with mental health needs. Mental health problems are common, and many of us will experience them during our lifetimes, with around half of us having personally experienced a mental health problem by the age of 75.

Rosie explains: “Many people accessing veterinary care for their animals will be experiencing mental health needs and while for some this will not affect their veterinary consult, for others there may be times when aspects of their mental health needs may relate to the veterinary consult, and vets may have a role in support.”

“This session looks at some of those situations, including anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders and delusional ideas, distress, and suicidal thoughts, and acquired cognitive impairment. We’ll look at each of these in turn and specific ways these can affect veterinary consulting and the best way to respond and support.”

“I hope delegates will have useful guidance they can take back to their workplace and implement, and it’s a chance to ask questions too and explore some up-to-date research in this area.”

Join Rosie at BSAVA Alba, taking place in Falkirk, Scotland on 22nd – 23rd September. Prices start at £150 +VAT for BSAVA members; £230 +VAT for non-members, with up to 10 hours of CPD and topics for the whole veterinary profession. Get your ticket now: