Mental health support initiative launched for vets


Veterinary Ireland has launched Vet Support Ireland, a new initiative to help support vets, vet nurses and lay staff in their mental health and wellness. The announcement was made at the Veterinary Ireland annual general meeting and conference, which took place in the Mullingar Park Hotel, on Friday, November 22.

“A variety of research shows that veterinary professionals report a very high level of psychological stress and are known to be at increased risk of death by suicide, when compared with the general population,” according to Dr David MacGuinness MVB MRCVS, president, Veterinary Ireland.
“It has been concluded that the proportional mortality ratio for suicide amongst the veterinary profession is four times that of the general population and around twice that of other healthcare professionals.”
The new Vet Support Ireland service is manned by 11 trained supporters who are either vets or vet nurses, providing support on a voluntary basis. Irish vets can find out information about the service through a web site and contact the supporter they feel they can most relate to on a completely confidential basis. Dr MacGuinness says he was fortunate in his early years as a vet to have been able to speak with his father, who was also a vet, about traumatic cases, issues and stresses of work.  
“He was, in effect, my mentor and I was tremendously lucky to have had him by my side to provide advice and reassurance in those years,” says Dr MacGuinness. 
“My own experience is that young vets and rurally based vets in particular can find themselves in much more isolated circumstances. These trained supporters will hopefully help people in stress by giving them the tools and support and reassurance to help to manage their pressures and difficulties.” 
“In the context of the alarming levels of suicide amongst vets in Ireland and the UK, we want to highlight the importance of nurturing emotional and mental wellbeing and make mental health an issue that is as widely talked about and accepted as physical health,” said Dr MacGuinness.