John Fishwick, Head of Production and Population at the Royal Veterinary College and incoming JVP of the British Veterinary Association provides a personal view on ‘Mental Health at Work’, and what he hopes to achieve from the September 13th event.

What does mental health at work mean to you as a senior member of the veterinary profession?

It means sleeping soundly at night, and feeling happy and relaxed for a significant amount of time.

Vets are very conscientious people, and their work is both incredibly demanding and rewarding. Vets face considerable pressures, including long working hours, on call commitments, complex ongoing cases and clients who are understandably worried about their animals. It’s easy to get into the position of worrying about work all the time.

What’s one really good thing that the veterinary profession is currently doing to look after vets’ mental health?

The profession recognises the importance of good mental health in the veterinary community and has created some vital initiatives to support this.

In 2014 the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons launched the ‘Mind Matters’ initiative together with a number of other bodies. This pan-profession project aims to directly address the issue of mental health in the sector and promote a culture in the profession where stress and other mental health issues can be more easily talked about and addressed  (link to Mind Matters)

This also links to the VetLife organsiation that provides free and confidential support to the veterinary community through the Vet Helpline, a health support programme and a fund for financial support (link to VetLife)

If you could change one thing overnight to optimise mental health in the veterinary profession what would it be?

It would be hard, if not impossible, to have a ‘magic wand’ that optimised mental health overnight. The nature of the profession and broader changes in society generally mean that we will always experience some stress. By recognising this, discussing it openly and dealing with it we can go a long way towards reducing the worst effects of it.

I think the priority is for the veterinary community to keep on talking about mental health, to learn to identify signs of stress in others and ourselves, and to reach out to colleagues who are running into trouble.

What does mental health mean to you personally?

It includes everything I identified in answer to question one.

It’s also important for me to take a break and put the difficult aspects of life on one side occasionally.  It’s important to remember that however hard you work some things are inevitably difficult. It is not always your fault if things go wrong or you can’t solve every problem straight away.

I think a good test of how resilient we are in the profession is to notice whether we can address problems and criticisms straightforwardly without taking it personally. If we can’t, that’s perhaps an indication of the need to take a breather.

What’s one thing that you currently do to look after your own mental health?

Anyone who knows me will find this answer funny and hard to believe! I go to the gym, which helps a great deal.

What are you looking forward to getting out of September 13th?

The chance to interact with a lot of other people from other walks of life and professions, and hear their view on mental health and how to enhance it at work.

(John’s personal perspective provided here represent his views alone and are not necessarily formally shared by the Royal Veterinary College or the British Veterinary Association)

If you are a CEO, senior leader, HR Director or senior manager with an interest in mental health at work, attend the event on September 13th (2 pm to 6 pm)  that is being co-hosted by Dynamic Voice, a learning and development consultancy, and Maytree Suicide Respite Centre. This highly interactive event will contribute to the vital organisational debate on mental health at work, challenge the mental health taboo, and identify practical actions that organisations of any size can take to enhance mental health at work.

For more information see our event information here:

To book your place go here: