Vetlife asked a veterinary surgeon who had suffered clinical depression and was signed off sick for a significant period of time what, from her perspective, her workplace could have done to make her recovery easier:

Acknowledge that I was struggling

I was clearly struggling – visibly I was losing weight, I appeared exhausted due to insomnia, I was tearful and my hands were shaking. I was no longer eating at lunch nor participating in dog walks as I would normally have done. I was also questioning myself on even the smallest things and avoiding doing procedures that I previously would do with ease

Not enable me to carry on working when I wasn’t safe to practice

Some of my colleagues could see I was struggling and tried to help in their own way by ” carrying me” – i.e. doing more consults, operations etc but this enabled me to continue at work whereas actually I do not believe I was safe to do so and desperately needed to be signed off sick

Treat depression like other illness

Usually anyone who was off sick from the practice for any amount of time having a baby, having their bunions done, received a card signed by everyone and flowers but I didn’t get anything when I was off for nearly 6 months with depression – a sad reflection that it was not recognised or understood as an actual illness

Stay in touch

There was a lack of contact from colleagues I had worked with for years – I think there was genuine fear of contacting me in case they said the wrong thing but a text now and then would have meant a lot even if I wasn’t in the place to reply

Don’t leave negotiating a return or dismissal to solicitors

My practice had no experience with mental health problems so once I felt well enough to meet to discuss a return to work etc – they appointed a lawyer.  This was incredibly stressful and upsetting as I was sent recorded delivery letters from them regularly. Due to feeling out of my depth, I got a lawyer and the situation was escalated and I do not feel this would have happened if they had taken advice from Vetlife as to how best to handle my return

Encourage a phased return to work

I would have found it helpful if the practice had offered a phased return to work with regular meetings to see how I was doing

Vetlife has been there to support me through this extremely difficult period of my life.