Article Text

Potential barriers to veterinary student access to counselling and other support systems: perceptions of staff and students at a UK veterinary school
  1. K. J. Pickles, BVMS, MSc, CertEIM, PhD, DipECEIM, MRCVS1,
  2. S. M. Rhind, BVMS, PhD, FRCPath, FHEA, MRCVS1,
  3. R. Miller, LLB, DipLP, BD, PgDip (MBACP Accred)3,
  4. S. Jackson, MA, CQSW, MBACP3,
  5. R. Allister, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS1,
  6. J. Philp1,
  7. L. Waterhouse, BA4 and
  8. R. J. Mellanby, BSc, BVMS, PhD, DSAM, DipECVIM-CA, MRCVS2
  1. Community Health Sciences, Centre for Population Health Sciences, Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG
  2. Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
  3. University of Edinburgh Student Counselling Service, Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LJ, UK
  4. School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, 2.26 Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence kpickles{at}

Considerable evidence suggests that veterinary surgeons' mental health is often poorer than comparable populations and that the incidence of suicide is higher among veterinary surgeons than the general public. Veterinary students also appear to suffer from high levels of anxiety and stress, and may possess inadequate coping strategies when faced with adversity. Veterinary students may find it difficult to access central university support systems due to their heavy workload and geographical isolation on some veterinary campuses. A previous study of University of Edinburgh fourth-year veterinary students found that support services located several miles from the main veterinary campus was a barrier to students accessing counselling services. Consequently, a pilot project was initiated, which provided a counselling service at the University of Edinburgh's rural Easter Bush veterinary campus one afternoon a week during 2010. As part of the evaluation of this service, web-based questionnaires were delivered via e-mail to all veterinary staff and students towards the end of the 12-month pilot period to evaluate perceptions of barriers to student counselling and to investigate student-valued support services. Questionnaire responses were received from 35 per cent of veterinary students and 52 per cent of staff. Stigmatisation of being unable to cope was a potent inhibitor of seeking support within the veterinary environment, but counselling was perceived as valuable by the majority of staff and students. Provision of an on-site counselling service was considered important for increasing ease of access; however, students viewed friends and family as their most important support mechanism. Workload was cited as the main cause of veterinary student stress. The majority of staff and student respondents perceived veterinary students as having an increased need for counselling support compared with other students.

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  • Provenance not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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