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RCVS commits to improving mental health

13 May 2019

During Mental Health Awareness Week the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has been recognised as an employer committed to supporting mental health.

RCVS CEO Lizzie Lockett with Time to Change pledge

RCVS Chief Executive Officer and Mind Matters Initiative Director Lizzie Lockett (pictured above) signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge today, the first day of the Awareness Week, thereby demonstrating the College’s commitment to supporting mental wellness in the workplace and its strategy to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Time to Change is a social movement working to change the way society looks at mental health problems, improving attitudes and behaviour surrounding this. When employers sign the Time to Change Pledge they commit to addressing the stigma surrounding mental health in addition to making sure that employees facing mental health problems feel supported.

“With mental health-related issues disproportionately prevalent in the veterinary professions, the RCVS has already undertaken significant work to put support systems in place to look after the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals,” says Lizzie.

“However, in conjunction with Mind Matters’ industry-wide interventions and awareness raising, we recognise that best practice needs to begin ‘at home’ in our London office and that we need to look after the mental health and wellbeing of our own staff. We are committed to meeting the same standards we recommend for the wider veterinary industry and, although we currently do a lot to achieve this aim, we are always looking to do more.”

The RCVS has developed an action plan to lay the road map for future initiatives that will continue to address and improve mental wellness and awareness at the College. This plan has been accepted by Time to Change and the RCVS is now looking forward to putting the plan into motion, with the ongoing support from Time to Change throughout the first year of this process.

The action plan includes initiatives such as bolstering the RCVS Wellbeing Group, comprising a wide variety of employees from across the organisation, by creating Time to Change Workplace Champions to further promote workplace mental wellness. These champions will be proactively recruited from across diverse groups, and, like all RCVS staff, will be able to attend Mental Health Awareness training and will receive support in their role as champions from the College’s Mind Matters Manager.

Alongside this work, the College will also continue to run its &me campaign, a joint anti-stigma campaign run in partnership with Doctors’ Support Network, which encourages senior professionals from the veterinary and medical professions to share their personal experiences of mental health problems. Sharing these stories can be a powerful tool in fighting stigma across both the professions and within the College, and encourages employees, who feel able and willing, to share their own story as part of this campaign.

The RCVS has also previously been recognised by Great Place to Work as a Centre of Excellence in Wellbeing and, to ensure the capturing of data around stigma and attitudes towards mental health, the RCVS will be adding more mental health-related questions to their annual staff engagement survey. This will inform the ongoing development of the action plan and feed into the creation of further support initiatives.

“We’re delighted to see the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons take the Time to Change Employers Pledge. By signing the pledge and introducing questions specifically related to mental health stigma in their employee engagement survey, implementing workplace interventions developed as part of RCVS’ Mind Matters initiative and participating in a number of national campaigns and events, the RCVS is demonstrating a real commitment to changing the way we all think and act about mental health in the workplace,” says Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change.

“We know it can be hard to talk about mental health, which is why we work with employers to encourage staff at all levels to open up, to talk and to listen. Too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless, but with the right support, those of us with mental health problems can recover and have equal opportunities in all areas of life. Everyone’s attitude makes a difference and it’s fantastic to see organisations like the RCVS taking the lead.”

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