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The Stigma Behind the Mental Health of Veterinarians

March 21, 2023

6 min read

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Author : United We Care
Clinically approved by : Dr.Vasudha
The Stigma Behind the Mental Health of Veterinarians

Introduction

The mental health of veterinarians is an often-overlooked topic. In a profession so emotionally demanding, it’s no surprise that the suicide rate for veterinarians or mentally affected individuals is higher than the national average. Factors such as veterinarians not being given the same respect or pay as physicians or surgeons add to the poor mental health of veterinarians. The stigma surrounding mental health issues in the veterinary community is honest and prevents many from seeking help. It needs to change. This blog post will explore veterinarians’ mental health by examining their profession’s realities. We’ll also offer tips on coping with the job’s demands and managing your mental health.

How to recognize the signs of mental illness in veterinarians

Mental illness is still taboo, and it is no exception for veterinarians. Most people see mental health issues as a sign of weakness, and it can make veterinarians feel they must hide or downplay their symptoms. It is a dangerous mindset, as mental illness can have severe consequences if left untreated. Thankfully, there are ways to recognize the signs of mental illness in veterinarians. If you suspect that a vet you know is struggling with mental health issues, look out for these warning signs:

How to recognize the signs of mental illness in veterinarians

  1. Isolation from friends and family: Separation from the community becomes their preference. Keep an eye out for this.
  2. Loss of interest in hobbies or things they once enjoyed: Everything they once loved suddenly seems uninteresting or redundant.
  3. Changes in sleeping patterns or difficulty sleeping: Insomnia is one of the most significant and common signs of disturbed mental health.
  4. Mood swings or irritability: Veterinarians are usually calm and patient, thanks to their profession. Mood swings or lack of patience is a big sign of when it comes to the deteriorated mental health of veterinarians.
  5. Increased alcohol or drug use: Affected veterinarians tend to find an escape via intoxication.
  6. Neglecting personal appearance or hygiene: Personal care becomes one of their most minor concerns.
  7. Withdrawing from work or social activities: They may need more focus and willingness to work. It is a significant sign of poor mental health in a veterinarian.

Why it is essential to seek help for the mental health of veterinarians

The mental health of veterinarians is a critical issue that often gets overlooked.

  • The elevated risk of suicide[1] among veterinarians is likely attributed to the job’s high-stress levels, and this risk surpasses that of the general population.
  • Help is available, but many veterinarians are reluctant to reach out due to the stigma attached to mental health issues.
  • Medical professionals tend to be unwilling to seek professional help because they are used to being the saviours, not the victims.
  • It’s important to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, and it takes strength to admit that you need help and to reach out for support.

Many resources are available to help veterinarians deal with their mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to seek help.

Where to seek help for the mental health of veterinarians

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, many resources are available to help. Here are a few places you can seek help:

  • Your primary care physician or mental health professional
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Mental health hotlines like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you are a veteran struggling with mental illness, there are resources specifically for you as well:

  • The Veterans Crisis Line
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration

Promoting good mental health in veterinarians

The veterinary profession is faced with unique challenges when it comes to mental health. The significant amount of time spent caring for sick and injured animals, the high-pressure emergency care environment, and the constant exposure to death and suffering can all take a toll on the mental health of a veterinarian. The low-per capita availability of veterinarians and long working hours lead to terrible and stressful working conditions. In addition, the veterinary profession has a high rate of suicide. According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH)[1], veterinarians have the fourth-highest rate of suicide of any profession, behind police officers, dentists, and doctors. A report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) found that female veterinarians have an even higher rate of suicide than their male counterparts.[2] It is likely due to the added stress of juggling work and family life. Many factors contribute to mental health problems in the veterinary profession. But there are also ways to promote mental health and well-being in veterinarians. Creating a culture of open dialogue about mental health is one way to reduce stigma and encourage help-seeking behaviour. Promoting resiliency through education and training can also help veterinarians cope with stressors in their work life. Finally, increasing access to mental health services can make it easier for the mental health of a veterinarian and all the help associated with it.

Conclusion

Veterinarians often suffer from high stress and anxiety due to the nature of their work. Unfortunately, this can lead to mental health problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The stigma surrounding mental health means that many veterinarians don’t seek help for fear of being seen as weak or unfit. It needs to change.Veterinarians need to feel comfortable seeking help for their mental health without fearing judgment or negative consequences. Like every other individual, a veterinarian’s mental health is also essential. United We Care has a group of capable mental health experts trained to listen and advise you on the best way to solve your problems. We take pride in our years of experience and countless happy customers. Contact us today!

References

  1. “National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health,” Cdc.gov, 27-Feb-2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/index.htm. [Accessed: 01-Mar-2023].
  2. “New study finds higher than expected number of suicide deaths among U.s. veterinarians,” CDC, 12-Apr-2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p1220-veterinarians-suicide.html. [Accessed: 01-Mar-2023].
  3. B. Hesketh and G. Shouksmith, “Job and non-job activities, job satisfaction and mental health among veterinarians,” J. Organ. Behav., vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 325–339, 1986

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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