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Mental Health Awareness Week: Being a Vetlife Trustee

Vetlife Trustee Tricia Colville explains why it is important that the veterinary profession supports Vetlife, and how others can get involved with the charity as part of our Mental Health Awareness Week blog series.

It is the first warm sunny day of 2018 here in Scotland and yet I’m inside reflecting on Mental Health. Is that a good thing? Should I be outside sitting in the sun (likely getting burnt… I’m a fair haired Celt), switching off from work and unwinding?

I find that really hard to do.

I love my work and the veterinary profession. I have been privileged to experience additional roles outside of my day job during my 25 odd years as a vet. I do feel very lucky and I’m always keen to give back to the profession that has given me so much.

So why Vetlife?

I saw the trustee role advertised last year, and I didn’t consider it at first but mulled it over for a few days and discussed it with Geoff Little, the Vetlife President. The more I researched it the more I knew this was something I wanted to be involved with. I didn’t think I could be a Helpline volunteer, but this was a way I could contribute.

Vetlife has a hugely important role to play in the profession. I’ve become more aware of that over the last few years as we open up more about the struggles many people have; people are now talking and people are listening… as it should be.

I’ve learnt a lot by being a Trustee

I understand the volume of calls and emails we receive asking for help. I was astounded when I learned that last year our volunteers responded to 1,737 phone calls and emails. At BSAVA Congress and more recently on the closed Facebook page Veterinary Voices, it is clear how needed the charity is. People are openly talking about the low periods and struggles they face within their lives. Vetlife is a support I can use and point people to when they need help as the email service and phone line is manned with fully trained volunteers 24/7.

Those additional hours

Now back to the fact I’m not sitting out in the sun. I have never really questioned working additional hours in the week for something I love but I have come to understand, through my involvement with Vetlife, that this isn’t necessarily a good thing. One of the roles of Vetlife is to share resources on how we all should look after ourselves and be aware of our limitations. We are all different. Look on the website – there may be something that helps you!

After reading the information I understand I need to switch off and have some me time which helps me deal with the day to day stress which we all inevitably have to deal with. I run more and have taken up Pilates, which is a great help.

I remember once interviewing someone who said they never felt stressed; I challenged them on this. I think people don’t recognise it in themselves but everyone gets stressed at times.

Back to Vetlife

Eleven Trustees manage the charity and anyone working within the profession can access the support it offers. It has been around for 120 years, which I didn’t realise when I first became a Trustee.

Being a Trustee involves four meetings a year in London and email correspondence at other times. Sometimes that is dealing with requests for Vetlife to support new initiatives within the profession like the BSAVA mentorship scheme. The priority for the charity just now is to ensure we have the resource in place to continue to respond to the calls and emails we receive, which have increased 500% over the last five years, and importantly continuing to ensure the funding is there to do that.

We as a profession need this resource and we need to support it either with our time or financially.

I am away to sit in the sun.


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