Published: 20 Aug 2020 | Last Updated: 30 Sep 2020 11:53:19

A team of researchers, led by Dr Victoria Crossley, Research Impact Officer at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Navaratnam Partheeban, co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society (BVEDS), has won a £20,000 grant to undertake a significant research project examining experiences of racism and its impacts on mental wellbeing in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) veterinary professionals.

The Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants, named after a veterinary professional who tragically passed away in 2017 shortly after becoming a member of the RCVS Council, were set up as part of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative to  fund research focusing on mental health and wellbeing within the veterinary profession. 

Dr Crossley and other RVC researchers will join colleagues from the BVEDS, Oxford Brookes University and London South Bank University to deliver the project. The main aim of the research is to better understand the experiences of racism and the impact of these on the mental wellbeing of BAME people in the UK veterinary profession, to inform the design and monitoring of interventions to promote diversity and wellbeing in the sector.

High levels of anxiety and depression are known to affect UK veterinarians, with proportional mortality rates for suicide estimated to be around twice those of other high-risk medical occupations, and three to four times that of the general population. In a previous study of vet students conducted by members of Dr Crossley’s team, just over half (54%) of respondents had experienced mental ill-health. 

Despite these concerning statistics, there has been little formal research investigating the impact of racism on mental wellbeing in the veterinary profession in the UK. The study will examine both overt and ‘everyday racism’ – the recurrent, systematic, familiar practices in society, which intentionally or unintentionally convey disregard, disrespect or marginality. Previous studies have shown harm from everyday racism and microaggressions, subtle forms of bias and discrimination, experienced by members of marginalised groups. 

Dr Victoria Crossley, Research Impact Officer at the RVC, said: “For those who are personally unaffected, more subtle forms of racism may simply not be recognised, and therefore go unnoticed and unchallenged.  Everyday racism is associated with negative effects on mental health and wellbeing and it is imperative that any racism is addressed to protect those within, and entering, a profession in which there are already concerns about poor wellbeing and mental health.

“We hope that our project will increase awareness and understanding of the issues that BAME people experience while working or studying in the UK veterinary profession, and our findings will be used to inform the design of evidence-based interventions to promote diversity and wellbeing, and the monitoring of their effectiveness.”

Professor Stuart Reid, Principal at the RVC, said: “At the RVC, we are committed to fostering a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, staff and veterinary professionals.

“Dr Crossley’s research into various forms of racism and its impact on mental health is an important step in meeting this commitment. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this project and continuing to strengthen the resolve of our institutions and profession in combatting racism.”

Notes to Editors

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About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London. It was the first in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.
  • The RVC is the top veterinary school in the UK and Europe, and ranked as the world’s second highest veterinary school in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2020.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • In 2017, the RVC received a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest rating a university can receive.
  • A research led institution with 79% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

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