Mental health matters

If youre thinking, My team is fine! No problems here! lets look at the statistics. According to a 2015 national mental health survey, nearly one in 10 U.S. veterinarians might experience serious psychological distress. Try this (Mini) Team Meeting in a Box to turn your educational team meeting into a quick team building workshop that offers real, instant results for your practice.

Welcome to Firstline's Team Training in a Virtual Box, your complete guide to team training. Try this (Mini) Team Meeting in a Box to turn your educational team meeting into a quick team building workshop that offers real, instant results for your practice.  

Expert contributors

Thank you to the following experts for their contributions to the material for this meeting:

Allyne Moon, RVT

Becky Murray, CVT, LPC

Steve Noonan, DVM, CPCC

 

While it might be tempting to dismiss feelings of stress, fatigue, alienation, dissatisfaction, negative self-esteem and numbness as just another bad day, these feelings can be signs of a serious problem, like burnout or compassion fatigue. Ignoring them can cause significant harm to the individual and even his or her colleagues and patients.

Give your team the skills and tools they need to make mental health a priority.

Ready to get started? Click Next for a Team Meeting Guide, Trainer's Script, Handouts, Team Activities and more.

 

 

Resources

Download these handouts and tools before your team meeting:

Meeting guide: Explains the thinking behind the meeting and activities

Trainer's script:Step-by-step meeting dialogue

The 12 phases of burnout

Compassion fatigue self-test

Compassion fatigue pressure cooker

Part 1: Team knowledge 

Start by stating your goal for the meeting-namely, to better understand and recognize psychological distress (especially when it takes the form of burnout or compassion fatigue) and to discuss healthy tools and actions for coping. Provide your team with definitions of burnout, compassion fatigue and depression to orient them to the topic.

Burnout: Burnout results from stresses in the work environment, such as problems with coworkers or superiors. Burnout has three primary characteristics: emotional exhaustion, alienation from job-related activities and reduced performance.

Compassion fatigue: Compassion fatigue is an emotional and physical burden created by the trauma of helping others in distress, which leads to a reduced capacity for empathy toward suffering in the future. Burnout springs from where you work, and compassion fatigue is associated with the work you do. 

Depression: Compassion fatigue and burnout are not forms of depression, but they can lead to and coexist with it. Some characteristics of major depression, as listed by the Mayo Clinic, include: feelings of sadness/emptiness, angry outbursts (even over small matters), loss of interest in normal activities, sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or too little), fixating on past failures and frequent thoughts of death or suicide.  

Let your team know that their mental health is important to you, and make a point of removing the stigma from mental health issues. Here are two possible ways:

1. If you've experienced burnout or compassion fatigue and feel comfortable sharing that with your team, have a brief moment of honesty and transparency.

2. Share these statistics from a 2015 mental health survey: Nearly one in 10 U.S. veterinarians might experience psychological distress, and more than one in six may have considered suicide. 

Be sure to tell your team that the meeting should not be seen as a means of diagnosing and treating mental health issues. Tell them to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately if they or someone they know is having suicidal thoughts.

5-minute discussion: The 12 phases of burnout 

Pass out a copy of the “The 12 Phases of Burnout” to every attendee. Briefly read through the phases and encourage everyone to think about whether or not they're currently experiencing any of them. Ask your team to discuss (without naming names) if they've seen these signs in their coworkers. 

Tell your team that burnout can often be “treated” by changing your environment. This can look like solving a persistent problem or getting a fresh start in a new work environment. With that in mind, reassure your team that if they are experiencing burnout, you want to help them if it is within your power. Implore them to speak with you privately to see if there is a way you can make their work environment less stressful. 

3-minute activity: Compassion fatigue self-test

Give everyone a copy of “Self-test: Are you suffering from compassion fatigue?” and allow them a few minutes to read over the symptoms and either mentally or physically “check” the symptoms they are experiencing. 

5-minute discussion: Compassion fatigue pressure cooker 

Pass out copies of “The pressure cooker of veterinary practice.” Give a brief overview of the four levels in chronological order and allow your team time to process where they might stand.

Talk about the compassion trap and how compassion fatigue can affect job performance. Have them look back at the self-test for the full picture of how harmful compassion fatigue can be to themselves, their coworkers and their patients. Explain that unlike burnout, compassion fatigue can't be solved by changing the work environment. Compassion fatigue is associated with the work they do, so new surroundings won't solve it.

Click Next for Part 2, Implementation.

 

Resources

Download these handouts and tools before your team meeting:

Meeting guide: Explains the thinking behind the meeting and activities

Trainer's script: Step-by-step meeting dialogue

The 5 Cs of compassion fatigue

Navigating the 5 Cs of coping with compassion fatigue

• Video: Stressed? Chill out with these apps

• Video: How to help a depressed colleague

Part 2: Implementation

10-minute activity: The 5 Cs of compassion fatigue

Tell your team that if they are currently suffering from compassion fatigue, they will need to make some long-term changes. But to get through today, they can try the tips found in this article.

Pass out the handout “The 5 Cs of compassion fatigue.” If you have a monitor at your disposal, pull the article, “Navigating the 5 Cs of coping with compassion fatigue,” up on the screen to facilitate discussion. If you don't, click on the green printer icon in the upper right-hand corner of the article for a printer-friendly version. Briefly read through the article, stopping after each “C” so your team can do the activities outlined below.

1. Calm down: Jot down a quiet place you could use to relax. Maybe it's a closet. Maybe it's your car. Whatever it is, write it down.

2. Collect your thoughts: Write one thing you are thankful for and one overwhelming thing on your to-do list you could ask a coworker to help get done.

3. Communicate: If applicable, write the name of a coworker you need to talk to about something that's bothering you, and don't confuse gossip with communication.

4. Control boundaries: Jot down how you could respond to a client who wants you to look at her dog's non-emergency issue at closing time.

5. Consider your needs: Write one way you can reorder your schedule or routine that puts your needs first.

2-minute activity: Mindfulness apps

Before you play the video “Stressed? Chill out with these apps,” remind your team of the first “C” in the previous activity-Calm down. Explain that they can use these apps when they are trying to relax in their quiet places.

1-minute activity: How to help a depressed colleague

Before showing the video “How can I help if I think a veterinary colleague is depressed?” stress that the tips they are about to hear don't just apply to depressed colleagues-they are great options if they think their coworkers are burned out or suffering from compassion fatigue too.

1-minute activity: Thank your team

Give your team a big thanks for being willing to delve into a serious and important topic. Remind them that the meeting should not be seen as a means of of diagnosing and treating mental health issues. Tell them to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately if they or someone they know is having suicidal thoughts. Encourage them to come to you if they have lingering questions or concerns or if they just need to talk.