The Mental Health Crisis in Veterinary Medicine

We typically keep all of our social media posts happy and light hearted, however today we are making an exception. This has been a rough week for the veterinary medicine community. While this does not directly involve Spring Branch Vet, the community has lost 3 veterinarians to suicide this week alone. If this is a sensitive subject for you, I am sorry, please scroll on.

Those that work in veterinary medicine are up to 3.5 times more likely to die of suicide than the general population. We have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.

 

Why You Ask?

Well it’s not just playing with puppies and kittens all day (although these are some of our favorite parts and we thrive on happy pets and saving animals ❤️) 

-Most veterinarians and staff are extremely overworked and understaffed. There is a national shortage of both veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Long hours and poor work-life-balance lead to stress and burnout. We often even spend our days off caring for patients in need.

-People working in the veterinary field chose this profession because we love animals and want to dedicate our lives to taking care of them. We cannot always save every patient. Euthanasia is a daily part of our lives in order to prevent suffering. Even worse, sometimes we are forced to euthanize animals with treatable conditions due to finances. We are often involved in animal abuse and neglect cases, which words cannot even describe the emotions involved. Some veterinarians have to euthanize large numbers of animals in overpopulated shelters. All of this leads to compassion fatigue and sometimes depression.

-Veterinarians have a very high debt to income ratio. We have the same number of school years as a physician but earn only a fraction of the income. The average vet graduates with crippling school debt that takes our entire career to pay off. I promise you- no one in this profession is here for the money!

-Another factor is misplaced anger by clients.  Veterinary medicine is expensive. Our equipment is expensive, medications are expensive, lab costs are expensive. Many practices turn no profit at all. For the same service we charge only a fraction of the cost compared to human medicine. Yet medicine is still expensive to provide. This is often very stressful to pet parents in a situation with a very sick animal. Sometimes it’s an emergency, which is even worse. However anger over this is often taken out on those trying to help animals. Yelling, threats, social media bullying, and sometimes even physical harm are not uncommon. Myself, as well as members of my staff, have received several death treats, threats of violence, and untruthful social media slandering.  As this happens over and over it can be very unhealthy for our mental health.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

BE KIND to your veterinarians and staff please. We understand how stressful it is when your furry family member is sick. We want to do everything we can to help. Please be kind and respectful.

-Share positive experiences with us. Sometimes people only voice their opinion when they are upset.

-Be supportive to your friends and family who work in veterinary medicine. We often don’t show all the weight we are carrying.

-Plan ahead for veterinary expenses. Have an emergency pet fund. Animals get sick and sometimes emergencies happen. Do not tell your veterinarian “If you loved animals you would treat him for free”. Believe me, we would love to treat every animal and we wish finances didn’t matter. However we have to pay staff, purchase medications, and pay for expensive equipment.

-Don’t ask for free veterinary advice from acquaintances.  Poor work-life-balance is a big problem in the veterinary field. Therefore getting constant messages, texts, and calls from distant acquaintances with questions can be exhausting.

-Don’t complain about COVID-19 safety precautions. COVID has brought its own set of stressors to everyone, including veterinary hospitals. Theses precautions have made appointment times run longer. Demand for veterinary medicine has increased due to increases in pet adoptions, however staffing shortages have worsened. We are doing our best to provide quality care to animals, while keeping our staff and the community safe.

These are just a few of the reasons that there is a mental health crisis in veterinary medicine. I feel that it is important to bring awareness of this problem to the non-veterinary community.

Not One More Vet is a non-profit organization providing suicide prevention support for those working in veterinary medicine.

We at Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital have  ZERO tolerance for any aggressive behavior from our clients. We ask for mutual respect and we reserve the right to refuse service to those who are un-kind to anyone on our team. Work-life balance is also very important for our team.  We are thankful that most of our clients are wonderful, kind, caring, animal-loving people. We are very grateful for all the kind words from you all. We love your pets and we want to keep them happy and healthy. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU To our wonderful clients  ❤️❤️❤️

Here are additional articles for more information on the subject:

https://www.nomv.org/in-the-news/

https://time.com/5670965/veterinarian-suicide-help/?fbclid=IwAR2cptmrq4ZY9Y2i5R9wjJQNHvDdAm9rKVIW52akF6wGJ06gzQL4XlnNphE

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/?fbclid=IwAR2eZrsdDK9wY0QRc36qv7rJMx4R3qLOetxpLWA1tlDPYRGS8Q0NWpkO7j0

Thank you again to all of our wonderful kind supportive clients 🙂

Dr Hughes

Be A Nice Human