From an outsider’s perspective, having a role working in the veterinary industry is every animal lovers dream. We get to spend all day cuddling puppies, kittens and every other cute and fluffy creature that comes through the door whilst simultaneously fixing them.
Of course there are the sad times, the euthanasia’s of the old loyal friend and the problems that even we cant fix, but that is where you are wrong. The idealistic view of the veterinary profession is nothing more than that. In reality, the stress of this career path is far more than one would consider.
We are all working hard to meet the increasing demand of veterinary care, whilst frequently being thrown into emotional turmoil by the loss of a patient in relation to financial, medical, educational or other problems. The feeling of failure and the weight of the job alone has caused the rate of suicide to soar, making veterinary have the 4th highest suicide rate of any profession, with Male vets 2.1 times more likely to commit suicide than the national average and female vets 3.5 times more likely.
The physical and mental strain that we face as vets is immense and the direct access to lethal medicines poses a larger issue, considering that veterinary professionals are 2.5 times more likely than the general population to use pharmaceuticals when taking our own lives. The increase in suicide prompted Dr. Nicole McArthur to create NOMV, meaning, not one more vet will have to be alone or go with out support whilst being in crisis.
At wear referrals we try our best to understand and support mental health. We have an open door policy and a team of mental health first aiders to provide a shoulder or an ear whenever one is needed. The vets and nurses here try to invest in one another. We all understand the burden of the industry; we have all worked through the hard times to come out of the other side. The nurses especially have provided us with various activities to help raise spirits.
Back in February one of our nurses encouraged us all to write compliments and love notes to one another to celebrate valentines day, in doing so, we were able to celebrate ourselves. Another nurse recently started a sunflower growing competition so that we could spend sometime outdoors and invest in something that we usually don’t have time too, ourselves! As with a lot of things in the veterinary industry, there is vast room for improvement.
The mind is a complicated thing and so are emotions, it is only human to suffer from burnout and let the negatives of life affect your outlook, but as with NOMV, we are actively making a change. Being kinder, supporting one another and accepting that it’s okay to be overwhelmed by our career, is one of the ways in which we can progress in this field. We are all only human.
If you are struggling at all or feel like you are in crisis and in need of support please phone the national suicide prevention hotline 18002738255.