Educating the Veterinary Students of Tomorrow

It is no secret that being in the veterinary profession subjects you to certain pressures which can have serious implications when it comes to your mental health due to the stress of hard work - the good news is that it is arguably one of the most supportive professions that there is. The process of applying and getting through vet school is so similar between the universities in the UK that everyone understands the challenges that you face from A levels to graduating and even 15 years into your career. The other nice thing is that it is quite a small community - you can hardly go anywhere without knowing the friend of a friend. The universities provide an increasing amount of support eg with trained peer supporters, personal tutors, senior tutors and head of years and student support services (like counselling) always willing to lend an ear. The point is that even if you start to feel your mental health struggling, there is always somewhere to turn to in this profession, the important thing is that you notice and feel able to ask for help and know where to find it.

Here are some tips from current vet students about dealing with stress at university: since it's a fact that vet school can be very stressful at times - you have more content to learn than you ever have before, you are in a completely new environment with new commitments and challenges and exams at the end of each year to top it all off. The truth is everyone goes through periods of thinking that vet school is impossible, but everyone overcomes it via their different methods. It is really important to have a form of stress release at vet school, be it sport, the gym, walking, music, art, drama, volunteering – there is something for everyone and it is important to know that you don’t have to give up your hobbies in order to pass your vet exams. If anything, they will help your academic performance.

"The main thing I found helpful was to have a friend network of vets students and non-vet students at university. Vets understand what you’re going through as you’re all trying to get through it together. However, non-vet friends can help you take a step back from the stressful situation, provide different perspectives and help you take your mind off the stress and to remember to enjoy being a student."

"The universities are full of various sports teams, and any society you can think of! I encourage anyone in vet school to get involved with as much extra-curricular things as possible to release yourself from the stress of the vet world and have some fun! And of course, if it all gets too much a trip home for some looking after and home comforts does a world of good."

"Learning to deal with stressful times and challenges at university makes me feel like I can cope as a real life vet. It always amazes me how often I open up to someone and they have been through the same thing - then we can help each other by finding an appropriate solution and being able to help others in the future by reflecting on our own experiences. But remember that everyone copes differently!"

"Hobbies outside of vet school provide a great form of social interaction, and it can sometimes be especially helpful to be around other students who aren’t on the vet course. They won’t have any idea about your course and you won’t have any idea about theirs, which means that it can be a fantastic way to take your mind off your work when you can’t talk about it."

"Going home for the weekend is a huge part of staying on track and staying sane! I am now in 4th year and it has got to the point where a lot of people go home quite a few times a term and everyone is jealous when they hear of someone else going home! I have found that often you feel totally fine and healthy (both body and mind!) and then you go home and the weight that you feel being lifted by just being with family or friends and even just getting a lovely home cooked meal is incredible."

"It is okay to feel home sick – I still miss my parents 4 years in but the difference between now and 1st year is that I admit that and notice that in myself and do something about it and go home instead of worrying about missing out"

Remember – coming to university is a huge change for most of us – new people, new cities, new challenges – and sometimes its just nice to go somewhere you know and can fully relax – its amazing what a weekend can do to your stress levels! Some vet schools have created a peer support community, which trains up volunteers on the course to be able to listen to and advise anyone in the vet school who feels like they are struggling. And as well as this, the Vetlife website (see link below) and helpline (0303 040 2551) are available to all vet students. You can use their website, email and helpline to express any worries in confidence. They can help you on a variety of topics ranging from depression at university and stress to student finance, so is a really great resource for students across the country.

Dealing with stress