Real stories: What I wish my workplace had done differently

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