The Glasgow University Veterinary Medical Association (GUVMA) is raising awareness about mental health in the veterinary community through a series of collaborative events throughout February.
"Feel Good February" is a cross-campus collaboration with GUVMA, a student-run association which works with the University's veterinary school and other campus groups to host events that reduce the stigma around mental health. This year the events will also be fundraising for Vet Life, an organisation which provides free help for the veterinary community including veterinary nurses and students.
GUVMA co-presidents and final year students at Glasgow University Veterinary School, Antonia Ioannou and Kirsty McColm, said that they want to make a difference before they graduate regarding the disproportionately high levels of depression, stress and anxiety among veterinary professionals. The co-presidents said this year's fourth annual Feel Good February will be even larger than previous ones because they planned events with other campus groups and want to connect students with veterinary professionals who understand mental health in their community.
Veterinary surgeons in the UK are three to four times more likely than the general population to die by suicide, according to Vet Life.
GUVMA said in a statement: "GUVMA is extremely privileged to have the support from our school, student community, and other student bodies to help put together this amazing month. It is a true team effort and there are so many students working behind the scenes to make it a reality. This month is designed to open the conversation on mental health and to provide support and skills that students can use throughout their time at university and as well as after they graduate. We would like to encourage all students to reach out — whether to friends, family, or organisations if they ever feel like they need help. We hope that by opening a dialogue on mental health in the veterinary profession, students will feel more comfortable asking for or providing help to others."
Events include a three-hour Mind Your Mate workshop with the Glasgow University Students' Representative Council (SRC), which covers mental health awareness and suicide prevention skills, and the GUVMA Glitter Stall in HIVE on 6 February. One of the most anticipated events, the Feel Good February 5K, is on 29 February starting at the Garscube Sports Complex from 10am to 1pm. The race is free to enter and will have snacks, music and dogs to pet.
Feel Good February has themed days throughout the week to promote the idea of being open about mental health. Motivational Mondays include an email of challenges and success from veterinary professionals, Cup of Tea Tuesdays will have free food from sponsors and Freebie Fridays will have sponsored goods for students around campus. Veterinary students are also offered a free Park Fit class at the Garscube campus on Tuesdays to encourage an active lifestyle.
Ioannou and McColm both said that while Feel Good February is meant to inform others about the importance of good mental health in the veterinary community, all students should reach out if they are struggling with school.
"Reach out to a friend, a classmate, or ask your friend if they are okay," McColm said. "We want to reduce the stigma and get people talking about mental health."
Students interested in participating in Feel Good February can visit GUVMA's official Facebook page.