Vet nurse and co-founder of the Veterinary Voices Hiking Group Robyn Lowe talks in this blog about the theme of this years Mental Health Awareness week: Loneliness.
Recently I asked a group of veterinary professionals on Veterinary Voices UK if they ever felt lonely – 72% said yes. Of this 72%, 52.5% were lonely occasionally and 39.5% regularly.
It might come as a surprise to you that veterinary professionals feel lonely – after all our jobs means we are often in company. Whether than be our colleagues or clients or even the patients themselves, it is rare to be alone – but does being in company mean you aren’t lonely?
There could be a number of reasons veterinary professionals become lonely – being away from family and friends, long shifts or unsociable hours meaning people miss social engagements, tiredness after a hard week’s work meaning we don’t have the energy to reach out to friends, and the higher that average occurrence of anxiety and depression which can lead to people isolating themselves could all contribute to a sense of loneliness and isolation.
Feeling lonely is something we can all relate to at some point, but admitting we feel lonely in day-to-day life despite busy work and home lives can be much harder.
Loneliness is so unique to an individual it is hard to give advice on how to alleviate it, but one thing for certain is that a sense of community as well as opportunity to build new connections, whether physical or virtual, could go some way in allowing veterinary professionals to build a support system to tackle loneliness.
What does loneliness mean to me?
It’s important to remember that you can spend time alone and not be lonely, and also that you can be in regular company and still feel disconnected and lonely.
Despite enjoying time on my own (or with my dog) in the great outdoors to relax where I am alone but not lonely, I dislike the feeling of boredom and loneliness – as such I usually ensure that I am busy – unbelievably busy in fact. I know that boredom can lead me to feel frustrated and as such can understand how people who experience feelings of loneliness and isolation can begin to experience numerous negative emotions and feel disconnected from others.
I am also acutely aware that the mental health burdens our profession face means that people often isolate themselves. As I have said before –
‘Please never feel like you are travelling the journey alone. The veterinary industry is full of the most astounding, imaginative, intelligent, inspirational, kind, generous individuals. It is absolutely okay, to not be okay! But please don’t be ‘not okay’ on your own.’
What can I do to help?
The NHS encourages people to check in and stay connected, they encourage you to join a group and do things you enjoy, they encourage you to share you feeling (without comparing) and to help others feel connected.
It was important to me to try give something positive back to the profession and I approached two friend’s, veterinary surgeons Paul Horwood and Danny Chambers, and asked them about the idea of setting up a hiking group – the ‘Veterinary Voices Hiking Group’ was formed.
In early 2022 the Veterinary Voices Hiking Group braved storm Eunice to complete our first ‘wellness walk’ and have many organised events planned (fundraising for Vetlife) such as the National 3 Peaks Challenge and the Herriot Way in October which people are welcome to join.
The aim from the group includes a few objectives, mostly I wanted to see our profession get out and about for their mental and physical health but also, I would like to address the isolation and loneliness many within our profession experience. I wanted people to forge new friendships, meet up to walk and talk, join our organised events to meet fellow professionals and hopefully make local and national connections.
If anyone would like to donate to the Veterinary Voices Hiking Group in aid of Vetlife please do so here: https://rb.gy/yz43wq
If you would like to join the Hiking Group please request here: (1) Veterinary Voices Hiking Group | Facebook