Supporting wellbeing within the veterinary industry
Being a vet is a childhood dream for many of us. The idea of spending our working days stroking sleepy kittens, playing with happy puppies, and cuddling affectionate bunnies sounds far better than sitting in an office moving numbers around a spreadsheet or attending yet another meeting.
We’re not wrong. It is a deeply rewarding job, but there’s a lot that pet owners don’t see. Vets take on a huge amount of responsibility and work extremely long hours. It’s stressful work, leading to high rates of anxiety and depression.
At Paws in Work, we want to support the health and wellbeing of our animals and the people who take care of them.
The state of wellbeing in the veterinary industry
It’s hard to overstate the poor levels of wellbeing in the veterinary industry in the UK. Vets are between 3 to 4 times as likely to die by suicide than the rest of us. And this isn’t just a UK problem. 70% of vets in Australia have lost a colleague who took their own life.
Why are vets struggling so much?
People in the veterinary industry have extraordinary levels of depression, anxiety, and burnout. Many factors challenge their mental health.
Although we can pre-book vaccinations and check-ups, animals don't get sick on a schedule. This means that vets will regularly work long and antisocial hours. This makes it difficult for them to have a healthy work-life balance.
Although suicide rates are well known within the industry, it's a surprise to most of the rest of us. As a result, the veterinary industry lacks the support offered to high-risk professions, like the armed forces or emergency services.
Vets also spend much of their time dealing with sick animals and distraught owners. They are also trained to recognise when an animal is suffering and to provide euthanasia. So it's not surprising that they see this as a viable response to their own suffering.
What can we do to help?
Paws in Work aren’t just concerned about the welfare of people in the veterinary industry. We’re determined to make a difference. We’re here to offer support to veterinary professionals.
Here are some of the ways that we can provide meaningful support to veterinary surgeons and others within the industry who are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.
Make sure they have access to support when they need it
Vets need to know that they can access support when they need it. While services such as the Samaritans do incredible work, people in the veterinary industry must be able to talk to people who understand the unique combination of pressures they're under.
Supporting and promoting 24-hour support lines for vets is an important step in cutting the rates of suicide.
Provide proactive mental health support
There will always be a place for crisis lines and support, but they shouldn't be the first line of defence.
Vets need to be provided with mental health training as part of their qualifications and continual professional development to help them take control of their own wellbeing. Practices should be encouraged to consider mental health initiatives for all their staff.
At Paws in Work, we partner with veterinary surgeries to offer our unique mental health training. This provides support to vets across the country, just like Paws in the City, a veterinary practice based in West London.
By offering them complimentary spaces on our MHFAider© course, Paws in the City now have dedicated Mental Health First Aiders, who play a crucial role in their veterinary practice. They are now able to support their colleagues who may experience mental health issues and learn how to spot signs and identify triggers of mental health issues at work and beyond.
"The Paws in Work course helped me to develop the basic skills to support my colleagues when they're having a low mental health day. Some days can be tough when we see particularly sick animals, and I now feel equipped to be able to make those days a little easier."
Paws in Work's mental health courses aren't just for high-risk careers and industries. We can all benefit from better mental health awareness and resources.
Get in touch today for more details and to arrange the perfect mental health training for your workplace.
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