Saturday, August 28, 2021

Mental wellbeing tips from Dr Natasha Wilks


Dr Natasha Wilks, a veterinarian and career coach, in surgery.

It seems everywhere you turn, everyone is burned out. The world wasn’t prepared for a global pandemic, nor its acute, chronic and acute-on-chronic impacts.

We know that the veterinary sector, like many others, has been hit with an increased case load in the face of a major workforce shortage. In some ways, it is a blessing. Tourism, hospitality, the arts and many other sectors have been decimated. Teachers, healthcare providers and those caring for others have had to deal with unprecedented and frequent change. We know, because many people in these sectors are our clients. Many of us are living in lockdown (I don’t think I’ve written a post without using the L word for some time now).

“While hugely rewarding, the veterinary profession also entails numerous challenges to mental health that necessitate the need for proactive management. Currently, the increase in workload is exceeding capacity all day, every day.  Vets are exhausted and overwhelmed.  It is like running an ultra-marathon.  There is currently a huge demand for vets and nursing staff, and with everyone in the practice being so busy, there can be breakdowns in team dynamics,” said Dr Wilks.

Dr Wilks is supporting the partnership between leading Animal Health company Zoetis and Beyond Blue, which is in its sixth year, with an on-demand webinar, Wellbeing for Vet Practices, with practical strategies for maintaining mental wellbeing in practice for vets and clinic staff. 

Zoetis is supporting mental health challenges in our sector by donating to Beyond Blue. Over the past five years, Zoetis has helped raise $500,000 by donating $5 from products sold during the campaign period (July to October 2021). They aim to raise another $100.000 by the end of 2021.

According to Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand, all funds raised will go towards the Beyond Blue Support Service.


“To date, Zoetis’ donations across veterinary and rural farming initiatives have allowed over 8,000 people, including vets, to get the help they need through the Beyond Blue Support Service and we are hoping to help more people this year,” he said.


This support is vital. You may be aware of reports of support services receiving record calls. According to Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman, the Beyond Blue Support Service continues to experience increased demand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.


What can we do about mental health? Dr Wilks offers five tips.


·       Start with you - Everyone is different, so it’s important to understand what is challenging you and why. Where possible, try to identify issues or instances that you find stressful and question what core values of yours they are at odds with.

·       Understand what works for you - There are definitely some basics that everyone should work on to help with their mental health, the key five - physical activity, healthy nutrition, sleep, taking breaks and holidays.

·       Change your perspective - As vets, we go through academia seeing mistakes as failures that affect our grades. In the real world, we need to live with the unexpected, so we have to be realistic and kind with ourselves to grow from adversity.

·       Find empowerment - Clinical Leaders and Practice Managers should provide a clear process for dealing with customers and guidance on when to escalate problems. Letting team members know that they have your support and what they can say in tough situations will give them the confidence to engage and disengage as needed. Part of dealing with difficult conversations is also understanding that customers are going through some of the same challenges we are.

·       Speak out and get help – Reach out to organisations that specialise in supporting mental health. Beyond Blue has developed a free six-week program, NewAccess for Small Business, that offers support by trained mental health coaches who have a background in small business. For more information, visit

In addition to the NewAccess program, the Beyond Blue Support Service offers free and immediate counselling, advice and referrals via phone, webchat or email. Beyond Blue’s online resources can help people take steps towards recovery and feel less alone. Beyond Blue’s online forums tap into a peer network that gives people connection and support from others who have been through similar experiences. The forums are safe and welcoming, monitored by a specially trained team.

For more information about depression and anxiety, visit To talk to a mental health professional for free, contact the 24/7 Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 46 36.

Free web chat is also available from 3pm until midnight at and you can join the forums for free and download the safety planning BeyondNow app from the website.

For more information for veterinary professionals on how to support Zoetis to raise funds to encourage mental health through its partnership with Beyond Blue, visit