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Mental Health Awareness Week: What happens when you call the Vetlife Helpline?

As part of our Mental Health Awareness Week blog series, Vetlife Helpline Manager Dr Rosie Allister explains what you can expect if you call the Vetlife Helpline.

It’s mental health awareness week. One message that you often see during awareness initiatives is ‘please ask for help’ and the number for a helpline.

We know that providing a helpline number at times or places where people may be at risk can save lives. It’s one of the reasons Vetlife produces free stickers with the Vetlife Helpline number on for controlled drug cupboards in veterinary practices.

But what is the Vetlife Helpline, and what happens when you call?

Vetlife Helpline is 26 years old. It’s available 24 hours a day to anyone in the veterinary community: vets, vet nurses, students, practice managers, and more.

Calls and emails to Vetlife Helpline are answered by a team of 60 trained volunteers. To volunteer for the Helpline you need to be compassionate, non judgemental, and have knowledge of veterinary issues. We know some of our callers value being able to talk to someone who understands the veterinary industry.

Everything that is said to Vetlife Helpline is confidential. The only exceptions to this are if an identifiable child or vulnerable adult is at risk of harm, and a few other rare circumstances required by law. We do not ever report concerns people raise with us to the RCVS, or to practices where people work.

To reassure people of our confidentiality we also encourage callers to be anonymous if they want. You can make up a name and we make no effort to find out who our callers are. We provide our email support via a website so we can encrypt callers’ email addresses. This means that the volunteer responding cannot see the email address of the person they are replying to.

What happens when you call?

If you contact Vetlife Helpline by phone, the call will be answered straightaway by the call answering team, and the volunteer on duty will call you back within an hour. Sometimes if the volunteer on duty is immediately available you can be connected straightaway.

If you contact by email, you are asked to make up a username and password to message via our secure website. Emails are always answered within 24 hours, but often the response time is less than this. All emails are permanently deleted from our system 30 days after your last contact with us.

Whether you use email or phone to contact is a personal choice – we know there are lots of reasons why one might suit better, and we respect that. Once you are talking to a volunteer, everything you say to Vetlife Helpline is confidential. Even if it involves professional conduct issues, or something you are worried about others finding out, it is safe to talk with Vetlife Helpline about it.

The call can be as long or as short as you need it to be – again, you are in control. Volunteers listen, don’t judge, and will explore options with you.

If after talking you need help to find specialist services for a particular issue, volunteers have access to resources for signposting to a range of specialist services offering practical help.

Vetlife Helpline is the route in to all of Vetlife’s support services so if you need mental health support and advice we can refer or signpost you to the Vetlife Health Supportservice who provide this, or to Vetlife Financial Support if in financial difficulty because of your health.     

One of the common concerns people raise when they call is that they are somehow not deserving of help, or that they are burdening us. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason people volunteer for Helpline is because they want to be there to support others. There’s no limit on how many times someone can contact. We want to be there for people, and will be there for as long as it takes.

Contact Vetlife

To contact Vetlife Helpline, call 0303 040 2551, or email via the Vetlife website

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