“What are you going to do after Vetlife?” is a question I have been asked by colleagues recently. It has made me look back over my career – 35 years in practice and many years with the VDS, teaching ‘Communication Skills’ were the main breadwinners; that was punctuated by 20 years as a director of Centaur Services; a period with Anval Ltd., helping colleagues with practice sales, acquisitions and mergers and general business planning, and time on SPVS Council, amongst other things.
I first became involved with the Vetlife, when I ran a Metaplan Strategy Day for the Board, many, many moons ago. I can’t remember all the individual targets that were set that day, but one that I do recall was the need to change the name of the Charity from the Veterinary Benevolent Fund, to something more modern that reflected its Mission. I was approached some time later, to put my name forward for election to the Board of Directors.
Having completed 9 years as a Trustee and looking back over my time on the Board, the following milestones stand out. A change of name from the VBF to Vetlife; Helpline accepting emails; the appointment of Rosie Allister as Helpline Manager; the almost exponential rise in contacts to Helpline; the appointment of a new Health Support provider; a new website; the reorganisation of existing, and the addition of internal Protocols and Terms of Reference; the continued Financial Support, however small or large, of the Charity’s work by so many; the £150K received from the VDS, to mark their 150th birthday, to name but a few.
I have been so lucky to have worked alongside so many dedicated and capable fellow Trustees, who give unstintingly of their time and expertise to Vetlife. They in turn have, and continue to be supported by a fantastic team of employees.
One of the most poignant moments as President occurred whilst attending a training session. “How many people here have mental health?” asked the trainer. When only a few hands went up, he reminded us that, “Everybody has mental health! Sometimes it’s good, other times it’s not so good, and some individuals, very sadly, suffer from lengthy periods of very poor mental health”.
That training session was some time ago, before Covid changed the world; now, conversations concerning mental health and wellbeing are commonplace, and I believe we are definitely more conscious of our own mental health and of those around us.
Like many others, I come from a generation where you didn’t share details of your physical health with others, and certainly never spoke about mental health – your own anyway. As a result many, many individuals must have suffered unnecessarily, in silence. Sadly, very many still do.
November is known by some, worldwide, as Movember, a month in which some men attempt to grow a moustache; a month which is also known as ‘Men’s Health Month’. Globally, men die on average six years earlier than women, and for reasons that are largely preventable. Which means that it doesn’t have to be so. Research tells us that men visit their GP four times a year compared to six times for women; nearly nine in ten men do not like to trouble a doctor or pharmacist unless they perceive they have a serious problem. As a result, men are less likely to access disease screening or seek professional support for healthy-living initiatives. Hopefully, with a move towards the normalisation of talking about health, many more will do so and seek help. It’s ironic that this increased openness comes at a time when there is a reticence to access NHS facilities.
Life after Vetlife
Coming back to the question as to “What’s next?” I do think it’s time to hang up my boots, work-wise and practise what the Movember movement and Vetlife suggest; I plan to take action to live healthier, happier and longer by pursuing my hobbies, which will get me out in the fresh air, and when Covid permits, spend time with my 10 grandchildren – I may even attempt to grow that moustache!