The Veterinary Surgeons' Health Support Programme (VSHSP) was established by the veterinary profession in March 1999 to help combat problems of alcohol, drugs, eating disorders and other addictive and mental health issues amongst a proportion of its members and was based on similar schemes which had been available to members of the dental and of the pharmaceutical professions. Regular independent clinical audits have described the VSHSP as “highly efficient and effective”.
Contact VSHSP on 07946 634220 or VSHSP@vetlife.org.uk.
In 2005 the Programme merged with the Veterinary Benevolent Fund (VBF) and Vet Helpline so that all three veterinary care charities are now run by the VBF.
The service is managed by a National Co-ordinator who is a mental health professional and deals with all cases in complete confidence. VSHSP treatment programmes vary but are designed to suit an individual’s addictive state.
For many, advice from the National Co-ordinator may be sufficient, with attendance at help organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The more severely affected may require out-patient treatment whilst for the seriously ill, in-patient therapy is usually needed.
Often people with an addictive problem don't recognise that they have a problem or delude themselves that they can "handle it". However, family, friends and colleagues are often the first to realise that someone is ill and needs help. The VSHSP is autonomous and totally confidential for those needing help and for those seeking help for others. Its primary purpose is the welfare of colleagues in need.
It is recognised that the path to recovery offered by the profession's own Health Support Programme is not the only one available to a veterinary surgeon but it is hoped that those seeking help or advice will make use of this freely available, confidential service by contacting the VSHSP Programme Co-ordinator on 07946 634220 (7am to 10.30pm daily including weekends) or at VSHSP@vetlife.org.uk.
Yes, the service is confidential and every effort is made to protect the confidentiality of the person contacting the helpline. You may be calling about yourself or calling about a family member who is a veterinary surgeon or calling about a colleague. The same level of confidentiality will be afforded to you.
No, you do not need to give full details to the Co-ordinator to receive help or support, although you will be encouraged to do so. It may take time to build a trusting, therapeutic relationship. Once that relationship is established, you are more likely to give further details. It is appreciated that patient waiting is sometimes required to develop this therapeutic relationship. However, you will be required to give full details if you need to be referred to a local or specialist service.
No, the RCVS will not be informed about a person contacting the VSHSP. There is a good relationship between the RCVS and the VSHSP. The RCVS refers veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to the programme. Contact with the RCVS is at the request, and with the written agreement, of the individual involved with VSHSP.
The helpline is live from 7.00am to 10.30pm daily, including weekends. Messages left on the helpline will be responded to within two hours, including weekends. Messages left on the answering machine will be responded to within two hours, including weekends. Messages left overnight will be responded to by 9.30am the following day, including weekends.
For statistics on those treated by the Programme and the structure, governance and management of the VSHSP see the VBF Annual Review 2012/2013.
A few years ago, I was in a hopeless state with severe paralysing depression and anxiety, and was unable to carry out even basic daily tasks, let alone work as a vet. It seemed any return to 'normality' was impossible. I was also oblivious to the role drug use had played in my 'demise' and continued to use my drug of choice throughout my descent, believing it was helping me to cope.
After all, my family and 'friends' were also regular drug users and seemed OK. I was convinced there was something else fundamentally wrong with me to end up in this state. As my condition worsened, I was really struggling to keep it together on the work front and eventually realised I couldn't. My head was always jumbled and I couldn't make decisions or be objective about anything. Pretty soon I was jobless, on income support and on a cocktail of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and sleeping pills prescribed by my GP.
My call to VSHSP was to ultimately turn my life around. They helped me to get and stay clean, arranged for me to 'see practice' in a 'friendly' environment as a stepping-stone to returning to the work place and, as I began to work again, they found me a mentor to support me in the early days. Today I have my life back ... no, a new and better life!
Vet Times Interview with the VSHSP National Co-ordinator December 2010.
In the event of a suicide, the National Co-ordinator of the Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme will:
At an appropriate time, and at the earliest possible opportunity, make contact with:
Following contact, the National Coordinator will:
Thereafter, the National Co-ordinator will: