Veterinarians Succumb to Suicide at an Alarming Rate
They save the lives of our precious pets’, yet veterinarians are likely to succumb to suicide at 4 times the rate of the general population.
The Australian Vet Organization states that typically, an Australian vet will take his own life every twelve weeks.
This is an alarming statistic we should all be concerned about.
Psychologists state that there are a range of factors for this troubling statistic, however the work itself brings with it a great deal of stress and anxiety– and significant risk of sheer exhaustion.
” The veterinarians are handling the animal, and they feel deep concern for it, at the same time being aware of the owner, and trying to remain compassionate can be really tiring,” explained psychologist Dr Nadine Hamilton.
Pet owners are often shocked at how much they are billed for veterinarian services, yet that is explained because of the expense of the treatment. The cost of running a well oiled clinic, drugs and medical equipment required along with his own time and the time for the assisting staff all have a price tag. We need to acknowledge those costs and happily pay the bill and on time.
Sometimes vets will even cover the cost of treatment themselves when customers can not manage it, placing more pressure on themselves and their families.
Veterinarians themselves take home an average income of just $80,000 per year, not a lot compared to many other.professions requiring the same academic achievement and the same level of commitment.
They want to do their best by both the animal and its owner, attending to the care of both can be stressful especially if the outcome is uncertain.
Being faced with the prospect of having to euthanize somebodies beloved pet can be an extremely daunting and stressful experience for both the vet and the pet owner but the vet may have to do this time and time again whereas the pet owner may only ever have to face it once in a lifetime.
Vets Respond to Farm Animal Health
We run a fairly large farming operation and I know that having a lot of animals you are always going to have some which will get sick or have difficulty giving birth. To address these needs vets will often be called out in the middle of the night, disrupting their family time and requiring them to get back into their work gear then drive to a property which may take up to an hour to attend to the sick animal. We care deeply about the health and well being of the animals in our care as do all farmers. If we are aware an animal is in deep trouble even in the middle of the night we may sometimes have to call a vet to assist.
They cannot be sure of what they will find when they get there. They may be working outdoors in muddy and cold conditions even in the dead of Winter.
On arrival they may confront a stressed farmer who needs consoling and reassuring even before he can start with meeting the needs of the animal. He may need to work for up to an hour on that animal then drive home again to his family who may all have gone to bed by this time.
In our country many farmers have been extremely depressed too because of financial pressures or the drought conditions and sometimes vets are the first on the scene after a farmer has taken his own life They then have to confront the family with the tragedy they have seen and try to comfort them when all along they have their own emotional needs to deal with.
Concern for Mental Health of Vets: Do not Allow our Veterinarians to Succumb to Suicide.
There is little wonder then that our veterinarians succumb to suicide as they have had to juggle the pressures of work with their personal and family lives and often receiving little recognition for the pressures under which they are trying to function.
The concern for the welfare of vets is not limited to Australia as I have read similar articles airing the same concerns going out of the United Kingdom and the United States
Veterinarians and their teams continuously remain at risk of psychological distress, depression, suicide and other mental health issues. Studies have revealed that one out of every six U.S. veterinarians have entertained suicidal thoughts, as a consequence of workplace demands and stresses . I imagine the figures are equally as alarming for other countries.
We cannot and should not allow statistics like this to remain. There are many resources available to assist someone dealing with depression in the workplace so if you are aware of people in that situation then please encourage them to seek help . Australia has a range of options but the first big step is getting someone to acknowledge that they need help. We do not want any of our veterinarians to succumb to depression.
The Article below this section was written by Kathy Sundstrom and Printed by The ABC Sunshine Coast in Australia in January of this year. I have copied it for the purpose of this post.
It outlines some of the issues facing our vets, the stresses they are under and the range of work demands they face on a daily basis. It deals with the concern for meeting the required number of vets in practice and looks at reasons why they are suffering mental health issues as they confront death and work related pressures daily.
It is my belief, having read that article and seeing firsthand the work demands faced by our vets that we need to develop a public awareness campaign to enlighten the people who use their services to be more concerned for the welfare of the vet when requesting assistance.
We need our vets so we need also to value our vets. We do not want any one of our veterinarians to succumb to suicide. You can help by:
- Showing appreciation for your vet
- Consider carefully the necessity of the home visit
- Value their knowledge and commitment
- Be understanding of their time constraints
- Be happy to pay the bill on time
- Be aware of the stress your vet may be under and encourage them to seek help if needed.
- Watch the following video to gain a better understanding
Veterinarians abandon profession as suicide rate remains alarmingly high
ABC Sunshine Coast By Kathy Sundstrom
Updated 14 Jan 2019, 1:58pm
PHOTO: The suicide rate among veterinarians is worryingly high. (Supplied: Manuka Vet Hospital)RELATED STORY: Managing the mental strains of life as a vetRELATED STORY: How dealing with death impacts vets’ mental healthRELATED STORY: Suicide deaths spark call to better secure veterinary drug
Australia’s veterinarian shortage has been “particularly tough” in the past 12 months, according to an employment expert who blames stress, financial pressure and long hours, along with abuse and “emotional blackmail” from pet owners, for the problem.
- It has become difficult to fill vet roles due to a number of conditions, including low starting salary and a five-year degree
- Clients complain to vets about prices and use emotional blackmail
- The suicide rate among vets is worryingly high
Vets are also four times more likely to take their own life than others, which is double the suicide rate of doctors, pharmacists, dentists and nurses.
The Animal Emergency Centre (AEC) in Noosaville, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, was forced to close for 12 hours on Sunday as no-one could fill a shift.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- QLife on 1800 184 527
An AEC spokesperson said it was “very rare” for an emergency center to have to close because of staff availability, but it was the second time in a year.
Former veterinarian Wendy Nathan runs Australia’s largest veterinary employment website, Kookaburra Veterinary Employment, and said it had become difficult to fill roles.
The site currently has more than 430 vet roles advertised.
Dr Nathan said the shortage was not helped by the high university entrance requirement, the five-year study period, and the low starting salary compared to dentists and engineers.
“In theory there should be enough, yet vet clinics are short of vets and can’t get vets to fill shifts,” Dr Nathan said.
Veterinarian Matt Rosen from the Animal Emergency Service at Tanawha, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, said a large factor for people leaving the profession was the manipulation vets received from people who could not afford their bills.
“We get some people who complain about the price and use emotional blackmail,” Dr Rosen said.
“They will say, ‘It’s not about the money, I thought you loved animals’ — and we do.
“You wouldn’t be in this profession if you didn’t love animals, but we don’t get the same subsidies you get for humans and it costs the same to treat.”
Vets abused, left in debt
Dr Rosen said people who complained when it came to paying their pets” vet bills made it much harder on vets.
Dr Rosen is a partner at the Tanawha practice, which is equipped with ultrasound machines, X-ray machines and other emergency medical equipment you would find in a hospital, but the veterinary practice must rely on pet owners, not the government, to pay an animal’s bill.
“People throw the emotional blackmail at you, you give in to them, and then you are left with $10,000 debts,” he said.
“The reason people leave the industry is they do get abuse and it is another reason the suicide rates are high.
“They’re conflicted so much. They want to do as much as they can for the animal but there is no-one to pay for it.
“There is nothing worse than making a seven-year-old cry in your surgery because you can’t treat a pet.”
Dr Nathan said the shortage of vets was making it worse for those in practice.
“Vet clinics are short of vets. They can’t get vets to fill shifts,” she said.
“They need to give vets a good quality of life so they are not working 60 hours a week.”
Increased suicide risk
The suicide rate among vets is worryingly high.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) website advises that vets are at a “significantly higher risk of suicide than the general population”.
“While other healthcare professionals such as doctors, pharmacists, dentists and nurses are around twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population, veterinarians have been shown to be up to four times more likely to fall victim to suicide,” the website states.
Dr Rosen said some of his colleagues had taken their own lives.
“A certain number of colleagues have suicided. This is a well-recognised fact in our profession,” he said.
“We have a lot of stress packed upon on us, there is emotional stress, and we work long hours.
“Usually people who go into veterinary science are highly motivated and put a lot of stress on themselves.
“If you have a pre-existing illness like depression, then you have the emotional stress at work and access to medication that can facilitate it, it all adds up.”
AVA president Paula Parker said there was a high demand for vets in emergency clinics and in rural and regional areas.
“What we do is work with the business owners and employers on how we can make a business as attractive as possible and veterinarians as happy as possible,” she said.
The AVA also had a number of programs to assist with mental health issues vets face, including a 24-hour counselling service, a benevolent fund, and training so every veterinary facility in Australia has a person who is able to provide first aid and to help those in crisis.
‘They need a lot of support’
Dr Nathan puts the issue of vet retention partly down to prolonged stress.
“Vets are high-achieving kinds of people. To get in to university you need exceptionally good grades at school,” she said.
“They want to get everything right and doing vet medicine is a very stressful job.
They may need a job that is not so stressful, so they move out of the profession even though they love doing what they do.”
Dr Nathan knows this firsthand as she was a vet who moved out of the profession.
“Vet clinics don’t get support from the system like Medicare. They have to invest money into equipment and digital systems, they need CT scanners and to keep upgrading the premises.
“Vets also do a lot of free work for wildlife, so there are not always the best salaries available to … vets.