Lifeboat

Purpose

Since 2014, NOMV pioneered online peer-to-peer support and mentorship in the veterinary community across our veterinary peer Facebook forums. Lifeboat extends this model further by providing anonymity for users as they are paired with a team of veterinary professionals trained in peer support who will accompany and mentor these individuals through their crisis. The program modifies the concept of a “warm line” where individuals can expect to receive an asynchronous response from their peers once per day at a minimum (i.e. this is not a synchronous chat service). The Lifeboat volunteers are supported by partnerships with the Veterinary Social Work program at University of Tennessee and the Department of Psychological Sciences at Auburn University.

Lifeboat by NOMV is not a mental health intervention, but rather a peer support space to discuss mental health and wellness issues. Peer-based approaches to mental health care and recovery are growing and are evidenced as effective ways to help those in crisis feel understood and supported.

Although our volunteers have received training in peer support and suicide risk management, Lifeboat does not provide real time support. If you need help right now, click here to find a list of 24/7 resources. Please reach out to them.

Lifeboat by NOMV was designed from the very beginning to be a resource for veterinary professionals. It is available to anyone employed in the veterinary field that may need support in their mental health, including: veterinarians; veterinary technicians,  nurses, and  assistants; and other support staff.

Lifeboat relies on a community of trained volunteers who help provide reciprocal accountability to their peers seeking support. Through Lifeboat, veterinary professionals help each other by listening to and validating each other’s experiences. 

Our veterinary profession volunteers are sorted into groups called Peer Companion Pods. The pods are generally composed of three companions  and a peer seeking support, matched by having similar roles in the workplace, i.e., veterinarian or support staff. As the program develops, we may develop a more diverse set of Peer Companion Pods based on experience or specific peer needs.

These Peer Companion Pods are comprised of trained volunteers that offer support to veterinary professionals in need.

Interactions are anonymous. We made this decision deliberately to facilitate a sense of safety. We want people to feel they can share what is bothering them without fear of repercussions. With this anonymity, Lifeboat volunteers cannot invoke non-consensual active rescue (i.e. calling emergency services without the permission or consent of the peer). They can, however, recommend resources that may be appropriate for providing additional support including invoking active rescue with the consent and disclosure of the peer.

Peer-to-peer support is the backbone of Lifeboat.  Peer relationships work because we naturally “speak the same language” as our peers. A scenario is familiar to anyone who works in the field, and therefore our conversations can progress to a deeper level more quickly. As people with similar experiences, we immediately draw from a wealth of knowledge, much of it intangible, that allows us to quickly form a strong connection.

The intention behind the Peer Companion Pod (PCP) model is to allow a group of peer companions to support each other’s work with a peer. The team approach empowers the pack to identify who has the most bandwidth during a given day or week to respond to peers. It also creates a sense of continuity and belonging for the peer who has a team of companions who are aware of their struggle and are there for peer support. This approach also ensures the emotional responsibility  of helping never falls on one volunteer companion’s shoulders. It also helps companions keep each other accountable for maintaining healthy boundaries and essential self-care- one of the most powerful ingredients for effectively helping those in distress. The “PCP” is where reciprocal accountability between and among members of the Pod happens. This is the bread and butter of building a healthy and resilient Lifeboat Community. 

Although there are many benefits to seeking counseling from a mental health professional, not all individuals experiencing distress feel comfortable doing so. We hope that by connecting on Lifeboat, with other veterinary professionals who have had successful mental health treatment experiences, peers will feel empowered to assess their mental health needs and get the “know-how” to develop excellent mental health care strategies for themselves in their own local community. Lifeboat can also be a great daily addition to a mental health plan that is already in place for a peer.

Using Lifeboat by NOMV

During these early stages of Lifeboat by NOMV, users are selected from a pool of veterinary professionals that have directly contacted our organization regarding peer support. We will slowly scale up the number of active users based on available resources.

Although our volunteers have received training in crisis support and suicide risk management, Lifeboat does not provide real time support. If you need help right now, click here to find a list of 24/7 resources. Please reach out to them.

If you are comfortable receiving non-anonymous support, you are welcome to our Facebook forums and join if you are not already a member.

Veterinary professionals can find support on Lifeboat for as long as they need and continue to comply with Lifeboat’s terms of use.

Technology

Lifeboat by NOMV is a web browser based application. It has been designed to work on major modern browsers, but Chrome-based browsers are preferred.

Please report any issues you experience while navigating lifeboat.nomv.org to our bug reporting form. They will be received by NOMV staff and addressed appropriately.

Veterinary professionals can find support on Lifeboat for as long as they need and continue to comply with Lifeboat’s terms of use.

Volunteering

Veterinary professionals interested in engaging with Lifeboat as a volunteer companion for their peers can apply by filling out NOMV’s volunteer application

All volunteers for NOMV are required to complete a confidentiality agreement and suicide prevention training. Additionally, peer support volunteers must be currently employed in the veterinary profession. Once application materials are received by NOMV staff, applicants are invited to participate in Lifeboat companion training. This training is an asynchronous learning module that was developed by NOMV with the Veterinary Social Work program at University of Tennessee and Department of Psychological Sciences at Auburn University.. 

All Lifeboat by NOMV volunteers are also required to complete a background check prior to interacting with any users on the app. This serves to protect our volunteers and those veterinary professionals that they are supporting.