Mental Wellbeing Hub

Mental Wellbeing for Veterinary Teams Symposium

‘Four Words, Forwards!'*

A unique symposium partially funded by proceeds from a collegial collaboration — the Vet Cookbook.

We brought together a broad range of speakers, from diverse backgrounds, to share their insights, tips and strategies to promote health and wellbeing. These bite-sized talks, filmed during the symposium, provide an opportunity to hear from people within and outside of our profession about how they tend to their wellbeing. They’re not a substitute for a chat with a GP or mental health professional. But they will provide insights: How did the speakers survive a tough time? What tools do they use to build and maintain resilience? How do they put their health first?

You can watch one at a time or binge them. You may find them thought-provoking, confronting, comforting or at times hilarious. We hope the effect of watching them is like a warm hug.

*Any small, suggested change should be able to be summarised in four words; hence the titles of the presentations.

Watch ALL presentations

Presenter: Yumiko Kadota   |   Presenter notes

Presenter: Barry Kipperman   |   Presenter notes

Presenter: Jenny Weston   |   Presenter notes

Presenter: Ben Bjarnesen   |  Presenter notes 

Presenter: Miles Downie   |   Presenter notes

Presenter: Kate Clarke   |   Presenter notes

Vet Cookbook

The Vet Cookbook is the result of an unprecedented collaboration with over 100 veterinarians, nurses, techs, kennel hands, groomers, students, doctors and animal health professionals, mostly from Australia but also from around the world. The idea germinated with the realisation that we often bond most with colleagues over food. The conversation flows as the ‘hangryness’ and hypoglycaemia dissipate.

The shocking truth is that this book isn’t about food. It’s a humble attempt to approach the epidemic of mental health issues in our profession by promoting collegiality. It’s about self-care and team-care, oft-undervalued soft skills, resilience and compassion. If you can’t practice what you preach, if you can’t (or won’t) work to maintain your own wellbeing, you – we, us – can’t do your best work, and you might even cause harm.

The Bad Doctor – Ian Williams
It’s just a job – Louis Profeta
Am I just a vet? Amanda Lee Charman 
Resilience pie  – Belinda Parsons
The importance of tribe  – Brian McErlean
Looking back – John Dooley
Develop and practice a good program of self-care – David Foote
Beating perfectionism together – Monique Crane
Music and the connection with mental health – Mike Woodham
The movement movement – Deepa Gopinath
It’s the little things that make you happy  – Cathy Warburton
It’s not just about the patients  – Jim Euclid

Quick Oats Comfort Breakfast

Thanks to Erin Wasson, a social worker from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. I work at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine providing support to the staff, students, faculty of the institution and clients of the veterinary medical centre. 





A Taste of the Day

The Mental Wellness Symposium was an absolute success. I particularly liked the science behind good sleep, and how important sleep is. All the speakers really did speak from the heart, and it should give any delegate the confidence and reassurance that every vet experiences some form of moral stress, compassion fatigue (along with many other topics covered) and that you are not alone. What an uplifting and positive conference, highly recommended for every veterinarian.
Dr Peter Shaw

This issue was dedicated to wellbeing for the profession. Open access, it allowed some of our presenters from the MWVTS as well as other contributors to reach a wide audience.

Peruse the Table of Contents here

View the issue here



If you have any feedback to provide on the Mental Wellbeing Hub, or any stories, articles or resources you'd like to share with others please email [email protected]

Need Help? Australian online resources

Veterinary team members are exposed to a range of stressors, and publicity around high suicide rates in the profession has led to discussion of a crisis in mental health. Many organisations are designed to tackle this crisis, including Mental Health First Aid accreditation, mentoring programs, counselling services such as that provided by the Australian Veterinary Association, and employee assistance programs. Our symposium didn’t try to reinvent those wheels.


AVA free, 24-hour counselling service -

Beyond Blue has a 24 hour hotline 1300 224 636 and information online:

Lifeline has a 24 hour hotline 13 11 14 and information online:

VetLife is a UK based charity providing a confidential hotline but also a range of information resources on the website:

QLife is Australiaʼs first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex (LGBTI). It provides phone 1800 184 527 and online counselling from 3pm-midnight and online resources at:

Mensline is a telephone and online support and information service for Australian men (24 hours) 1300 789 978


The Australian Medical Association provides a selection of resources to support doctorsʼ health and wellbeing, many of which are applicable to veterinarians, nurses and other staff:

The Australian Medical Student Association -

Authentic Happiness resources on positive psychology:

Buffalo University (US) has provided some guidelines for self-care which can be accessed here:

Coursera - hundreds of fabulous courses can be find here

Disability Services Australia provides online resources and referral for Australians living with disability:

Heads Up is an online resource to assist in developing a mentally healthy workplace

Reach Out is an online resource for young people, or those working with them, dealing with mental health issues and problems such as bullying:

SANE Australia is a national charity helping Australians affected by mental illness live better lives. In addition to a helpline 1800 187 263, SANE offers online chat and useful resources:

The Mood Gym is designed to help people learn cognitive behaviour therapy skills to prevent and combat depression:

The Black Dog Institute is an online resource for people seeking information about mental health and wellbeing:

This Way Up is an Australian website that provides very low cost courses on depression, anxiety, panic, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy for less than the cost of a visit to a psychologist:

Yale's Happiness Course

A check-list of helpful questions to ask yourself when 'everything is awful':

Thanks to Brian McErlean, Angela Phillips and Rosanne Taylor for their input in compiling these resources.

Download your own copy of the Resources contact list.

Resources - Books


Frankl, VF (1946) Manʼs Search for Meaning (A classic book about finding meaning in the context of the Holocaust).

Ilardi, S (2010) The Depression Cure: The Six-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs. (A book focusing on six key lifestyle elements that the author argues have largely disappeared in healthy doses from modern life: exercise, omega-3 fatty acids, exposure to natural sunlight, restorative sleep, social connectedness, meaningful and engaging activity. Professor Ilardi is not against the use of drugs to treat depression ‒ you can see his TED talk here:

Marsh, H (2014) Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery (An account of the stressors of being a surgeon, including common anxieties experienced, ups and downs, coping with errors, high-stakes clinical decision making and personal and professional challenges).

Phelps K (2013) Ultimate Wellness: The 3 Step Plan Pan Macmillan Australia. (The first section provides useful templates to perform a personal health audit).

Powell, L, Rozanski, E & Rush, J (2011) Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care: Case Studies in Client Communication, Morbidity and Mortality, Iowa, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (A very helpful series of cases, many of which involve errors, with an emphasis on learning and prevention of future errors).

Rowe, L, Kidd, M (2009) First, Do No Harm: Being a Resilient Doctor in the 21st Century. Sydney: McGraw-Hill. (An excellent resource on building resilience).

Seligman, M (2004) Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment (An introduction to positive psychology, including evidence-based tips for boosting happiness and wellbeing).

Seligman, M (2012) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing. (A book about cultivating wellbeing).

Viner, B (2010) Success in Veterinary Practice: Maximizing Clinical Outcomes and Personal Wellbeing. London: Wiley. (An excellent resource for those wishing to improve career satisfaction, especially in general veterinary practice).

Thanks to Brian McErlean, Angela Phillips and Rosanne Taylor for their input in compiling these resources.

Download your own copy of the Resources contact list.


acknowledgements We are very grateful for the contributors and sponsors to the Vet Cookbook, who made this possible. We are also grateful to the speakers, performers and our wonderful demonstrators, as well as the delegates who attended on the day – a sold-out event that proved extraordinarily popular. And we are extremely grateful for the support of the Centre for Veterinary Education, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Anne Fawcett, Lis Churchward, Deepa Gopinath & Robert Johnson
The MWVTS Project Team

See the Acknowledgements.

Vet Cookbook Sponsors

Supporters and Sponsors
A big thanks to both our corporate sponsors who assisted with the funding of the Vet Cookbook and to our supporters at every Australasian Veterinary Medicine School who spread the word far and wide to staff, students, alumni and community supporters.