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Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid for Vets

Introduction: Vets and Mental Health

Veterinarians can suffer from stress, just like professionals in any field. However, the veterinary profession has some unique stressors and challenges that can contribute to higher levels of stress and mental health issues. The emotional demands of the work, long hours and workload, financial stress, high expectations, client communication, compassion fatigue and isolation are just some of the stressors that can affect Vets. These factors, among others, can contribute to high levels of stress among veterinarians. It’s essential for those in the veterinary profession to prioritise self-care, seek support from colleagues and loved ones, and reach out to professional resources if they experience signs of excessive stress or mental health issues

  • A study conducted by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in 2014 found that around 12% of veterinary surgeons in the UK had experienced a mental health condition in the previous year.
  • Another study conducted by the RCVS in 2016 found that around 60% of veterinary surgeons in the UK had experienced a mental health condition at some point in their career.
  • A survey conducted by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) in 2018 found that around 40% of veterinary surgeons in the UK were experiencing high levels of stress, and 38% were experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.
In a Nutshell...

What are the factors affecting Vets Mental Health?


Emotional demands

Veterinarians often deal with seriously ill or injured animals, and they may need to make difficult decisions regarding euthanasia or treatment options. This can be emotionally taxing and lead to feelings of sadness, guilt, or frustration.

Long hours and workload

Veterinarians frequently work long hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays, to provide care for their patients. This can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and a lack of work-life balance.

Financial stress

The cost of veterinary education can be high, and many veterinarians graduate with substantial student loan debt. Combined with relatively modest salaries compared to other medical professionals, this can contribute to financial stress.

High expectations & Client communication

Veterinarians may face high expectations from pet owners, and conversations with clients regarding costs, treatment options, and end-of-life decisions can be emotionally challenging and stressful.

Compassion fatigue

Constantly caring for sick or injured animals and witnessing their pain and suffering can lead to compassion fatigue, a form of emotional exhaustion that can negatively impact mental health.


Veterinarians may work in small practices or rural areas, which can lead to feelings of professional isolation and a lack of support from colleagues.

Sound Familiar? There's something you can do for yourself, your practice and your colleagues...

Mental Health Awareness: Why should Vets undertake Mental Health Training?

A mental health awareness course can help veterinarians better understand the warning signs of mental health issues, reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, and learn coping mechanisms to manage stress and maintain good mental health.

Here are just six reasons Vets should undertake Mental Health Awareness Training:


Mental health challenges are common in the veterinary profession

Veterinarians are at higher risk of experiencing mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and suicide due to factors such as long work hours, high stress levels, and emotional demands of their work.

Improved self-awareness

Mental health awareness courses can help veterinarians develop a better understanding of their own mental health and the impact of their work on their well-being. They can learn to recognise warning signs of mental health issues and take proactive steps to manage their own mental health.

Better patient care

Veterinarians with good mental health are better equipped to provide high-quality care to their patients. By taking care of their own mental health, they can maintain their focus and concentration, communicate effectively with their clients, and make sound clinical decisions.

Improved relationships with clients and colleagues

Veterinary professionals who prioritise mental health and well-being are likely to have better relationships with their clients and colleagues. They are better equipped to handle difficult situations, manage stress, and communicate effectively.

Reduced stigma surrounding mental health

Mental health awareness courses can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health challenges. By openly discussing mental health in the veterinary profession, veterinarians can create a supportive and understanding environment for themselves and their colleagues.

Healthier work environment

A mentally healthy workforce is more likely to be productive, engaged, and satisfied with their work. By prioritising mental health and well-being, your organisation can improve employee morale and overall workplace performance

Good news! There's an easily accessible solution to enhance your mental health skills...

Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) – Tailored for Vets

Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) is a training program developed in Scotland to equip individuals with the skills and knowledge to provide initial support to someone experiencing mental health problems or who is in a mental health crisis. The goal of SMHFA is to promote early intervention, reduce stigma, and increase awareness of mental health issues in the community.

The training covers various mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and substance misuse, and teaches participants how to recognize the signs and symptoms of these conditions. It also provides guidance on how to approach and engage with someone who may be experiencing a mental health problem or crisis.

Green Ribbons has developed a tailored SMHFA course for Vets, addressing some of the unique issues in the sector, based on  the personal experience of family members who work within the industry.

What does Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid Training Cover?


Understanding mental health and mental health problems

This component focuses on building a foundational understanding of mental health, its impact on individuals and society, and the difference between mental health and mental illness.

Stigma and discrimination

Participants learn about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the negative impact of discrimination on individuals experiencing mental health problems.

The recovery process

The course covers the concept of recovery and its importance in the journey of individuals experiencing mental health issues.


SMHFA provides information on the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of depression, as well as ways to support someone who may be experiencing it.

Anxiety disorders

Participants learn about various anxiety disorders, their signs and symptoms, and strategies to help someone who may be struggling with anxiety.


The course covers the signs and symptoms of psychosis, its risk factors, and the appropriate ways to support someone experiencing a psychotic episode.

The ALGEE action plan

The course teaches the ALGEE action plan, which is a practical approach to providing initial support and guiding someone experiencing mental health issues towards professional help.

Self-harm and suicide

Participants learn about the signs, risk factors, and appropriate ways to approach and support someone who may be self-harming or experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Substance misuse

SMHFA discusses the connection between mental health and substance misuse, and how to recognize and support someone struggling with addiction.

How does Scotland's Mental Health First Aid training work?


The course takes 12 Hours, typically spanning 2 full days or 4 half-day sessions, providing a comprehensive learning experience.

Certified Instructors

Courses are led by experienced, certified instructors who are continuously quality assessed by Health Scotland.

Interactive Learning

The course features a mix of presentations, group discussions, case studies, videos, and role-playing exercises to ensure a practical, hands-on learning experience.

Small Group Sizes

Classes, of 8-16, are kept small to facilitate personalised attention, encourage active participation, and foster a supportive learning environment.

ALGEE Framework

The course teaches the ALGEE action plan, which stands for Assess, Listen, Give reassurance and information, Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage self-help strategies.


Instructors maintain a safe and confidential space for participants to share their experiences and ask questions without judgment.

Course Materials

Participants receive a comprehensive course manual and additional resources to support their learning and ongoing development.


Upon successful completion of the course, participants receive a certificate that validates their skills and knowledge as Mental Health First Aiders.

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    Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid for Vets
    Which factor can contribute to high levels of stress among veterinarians?
    Which issue can result from veterinarians working long hours and dealing with high workloads?
    Why might veterinarians experience financial stress?
    What is compassion fatigue?
    Which aspect of veterinary work can lead to professional isolation and lack of support?
    How does good mental health contribute to better patient care in the veterinary profession?
    What is one effect of prioritising mental health on relationships with clients and colleagues in the veterinary profession?
    Which of the following is NOT a reason to undertake mental health awareness training?
    Which audience is this training designed for?
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