Vets Now’s business development director shines a light on her role at national charity

Mental health may be one of society’s last taboos.

But it’s an issue everyone in the veterinary profession, which has higher than average rates of suicide, is determined to tackle head-on.

One organisation at the heart of this is Vetlife, an independent charity set up to help those in the veterinary community in need of support. Vets Now’s business development director Tricia Colville has been actively volunteering with Vetlife since last summer.

She said: “We know there is a high level of suicide within the profession. The job can be really draining and sometimes you just need to speak to someone who is completely impartial. That’s where Vetlife comes in.”

Tricia knows the veterinary profession well, having worked in it for almost 25 years.

After graduating from Glasgow Vet School in 1993 she took up a job in a small animal first-opinion practice in the north-east of England. She then moved to the PDSA in Glasgow, before joining Vets Now.

Throughout her time as a vet, Tricia has always been passionate about trying to improve the working environment for her colleagues, and in turn their chances of enjoying good mental health.

Tricia Colville speaking to nurses and vets for Vets Now article on mental health
Tricia is determined to improve mental health within the veterinary profession

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She’s well aware that vets and veterinary nurses are regularly faced with the prospect of putting animals to sleep, and that this burden may have a detrimental effect on their state of mind.

Tricia said: “I love this profession dearly and I know veterinary colleagues can find the work difficult at times, so I wanted to play my part in helping support anyone who feels they need it.”

Vetlife, which is managed by a board of 10 directors/trustees who are all veterinary surgeons, offers emotional, medical and financial support.

“Vetlife set up a confidential helpline as it was realised if someone needs to talk, they need to talk there and then,” Tricia explained. “However, it was through those conversations that we also realised a lot of people needed financial support and medical help.”

Although Vetlife has been in existence for 120 years, the number of calls to its confidential helpline have tripled in the past three years. Tricia believes this increase is partly due to rising stress levels in veterinary practices, clinics and hospitals.

She added: “It can often be the case where you are fine in the morning and then suddenly in the afternoon you realise you’re not coping or your stress and anxiety levels have gone through the roof.

"If someone needs to talk, they need to talk there and then."

Tricia Colville Director of business development at Vets Now
Image of Patricia Colville for Vets Now article on mental health
Tricia is one of 10 veterinary surgeons on Vetlife's board of directors

“This could be because of the cases that you’ve been dealing with, the pets you’ve seen and the emotional bond you’ve developed with the pet owner. It can be massively draining, and sometimes you just need to speak to someone.”

Vets Now work tirelessly to prioritise health and wellbeing among its own staff, including giving regional managers autonomy to draw up rotas that support good work-life balance and encourage staff retention.

Working as a director for two separate organisations may sound challenging, but Tricia always finds the time.

“Vets Now has always been hugely supportive of my career development, as well as being supportive of the wider veterinary community and profession,” Tricia explained, “I just love working here.

“Vets Now have always given me the flexibility to take on additional roles within the profession. I think everyone here realises how important it is to have a charity like Vetlife. Given the number of vets and vet nurses we have working for us, it’s important they know there is support for them if they need it.”

Vets and vet nurses can find it particularly difficult to cope with work stresses at certain times of the year, with Christmas being the most difficult.

Vetlife are available to provide support 24/7. If you would like to speak to someone confidentially, call Vetlife on 0303 040 2551.

Vetlife relies on the generosity of the veterinary community. To find out how to become a member, or to learn more about the services the charity provides, click here.