(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois)—Veterinarians face unique challenges in their jobs, and the rates of suicide and depression are unusually high in the veterinary profession. During National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 5-11), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is reminding veterinarians to take steps to improve their emotional and mental health.
A 2014 survey of more than 10,000 veterinarians found that 14.4 percent of male respondents and 19.1 percent of female respondents had thoughts of suicide, much higher than the 5.1 percent and 7.1 percent of U.S. men and women overall who reported thoughts of suicide.
“Veterinarians care so much about the health and well-being of their patients, but sometimes they neglect their own health and well-being,” says AVMA President Dr. Tom Meyer. “It’s critical that veterinarians have the knowledge, support, and resources they need to ensure their emotional and mental health.”
Overall, veterinarians report high levels of job satisfaction, but there are aspects of the job that can also lead to stress and unhappiness. One of these factors is compassion fatigue, also known as “vicarious trauma,” “secondary traumatic stress” or “secondary victimization.” This comes about as the result of a medical caregiver’s unique relationship with a patient, through which empathy allows the caregiver to “take on the burden” of an ill or dying patient. The AVMA has collected and developed a number of resources to help veterinarians combat compassion fatigue.
Financial burdens can also play a part in harming veterinarians’ mental health. With average student debt loads on the rise, veterinarians may be struggling to make ends meet while planning for the future. The AVMA has developed several resources on financial planning--including a personal financial planning tool, salary calculator and tips on student loan repayment--to help veterinarians address these concerns.
Additional resources on workplace wellness and setting up a wellness program can be found on the AVMA’s website.
If you think your mental or emotional health is falling by the wayside and in need of some help, you’re not alone and there are people who can help you. Please get help. Do you recognize potential signs in a friend or colleague? Support them, but also get help from experienced mental health professionals. Visit the AVMA’s website to learn more.