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Healing Our Healers: Managing Burnout and Preventing Veterinary Suicide
Recognizing the signs of veterinary suicide and providing insights and strategies to protect your mental health and find balance.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. If you are a CVP employee, you also have confidential, 24/7/365 access to care via the Ginger mobile app.
We view our veterinarians and their teams as the heroes of CVP, tirelessly working to ensure the well-being of the hundreds of patients who come through our hospital doors. However, we recognize the challenges and emotional fatigue the heroes of this industry face every day. With a disturbingly high suicide rate in our beloved industry and increased reports of veterinary burnout, we want to explore the critical issue of emotional fatigue among veterinarians and discuss strategies to prevent suicide in the veterinary industry. Plus, we’ll share information about how CVP offers support to our veterinary teams, in addition to providing resources to help you and your team foster awareness and prioritize mental health.
Understanding Emotional Fatigue and Signs of Veterinary Suicide
As the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study explains, emotional fatigue, also known as compassion fatigue or burnout, is a pervasive issue in the veterinary field. It stems from the constant exposure to emotionally charged situations, such as dealing with sick or injured animals and grieving pet owners. Over time, this emotional burden can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being.
Recognizing the Signs
Before delving into prevention strategies, it's crucial to recognize the signs of emotional fatigue among veterinarians. According to Today’s Veterinary Nurse, some of the warning signs of suicide include:
- Chronic exhaustion: As you know, the demanding nature of veterinary work can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. This may result in a lack of motivation and energy when you come to work every day.
- Increased irritability and/or withdrawal: If you are experiencing emotional fatigue, you may become more easily frustrated and short-tempered. In addition, you may find yourself avoiding friends or social situations you once enjoyed.
- Cynicism and disengagement: A sense of hopelessness and detachment from your profession can develop, leading to decreased job satisfaction and engagement.
- Physical symptoms: Emotional fatigue can manifest in physical symptoms, such as headaches, insomnia, chronic physical ailments, difficulty concentrating, nightmares, and digestive problems.
Preventing Emotional Fatigue and Suicide in Veterinary Medicine
As a veterinary professional, we understand you carry an unwavering dedication to the well-being of animals, often at the expense of your own mental and emotional health. The emotional toll of witnessing suffering, making difficult decisions, and managing the pressures of the field can take a profound toll. It is imperative to explore the multifaceted dimensions of emotional fatigue and suicide within veterinary medicine, shedding light on the strategies, support systems, and awareness efforts necessary to protect the mental health and overall well-being of yourself and those who dedicate their lives to the welfare of animals. According to the National Library of Medicine, prevention techniques include:
- Self-Care: You must learn to prioritize self-care. This includes setting boundaries, taking regular breaks, and allocating time for relaxation and hobbies outside of work. This may be easier said than done, but it will ultimately result in better care for your patients, and a healthier mental state for you.
- Create a Safe Space: Encourage a culture of open communication about mental health at your hospital. By creating a safe and open environment, you can work toward eliminating the stigma surrounding the need for help and support. Sharing experiences and seeking advice from colleagues can help alleviate emotional fatigue and feelings of isolation.
- Client Communication Training: Improving communication skills can help you and your team manage difficult conversations with pet owners, reducing the emotional burden of these interactions.
- Education and Awareness: Raise awareness about emotional fatigue and suicide prevention within your veterinary community. Perhaps this means offering training on identifying and addressing signs of emotional distress or finding local providers to come into your clinic to speak about compassion fatigue.
How CVP Supports the Emotional and Mental Health of our Veterinarians
At CVP, the mental well-being of our team members and the prevention of veterinary suicide is a top priority. Recognizing the unique challenges and emotional demands of the veterinary profession, CVP is committed to providing comprehensive support programs. These include:
Ginger App: Every team member receives free access to Ginger — one of the leading mental health coaching, therapy, and psychiatry apps — so team members can access help anytime, anywhere.
True Paid Time Off: CVP Veterinarians are provided with true paid time off with no negative accruals, so they can take the time they need to recharge, and refresh.
Benefit Packages with Mental Healthcare: When choosing our healthcare benefits, it was imperative that the plans included mental health coverage. In addition, CVP has not raised the cost for employee benefits in over three years to alleviate the duress of increased expenses year over year.
Mental Health CE: Part of our mission is to offer free access to mental health education to not only CVP team members, but the vast veterinary community. We partner with Not One More Vet and others to host free CE sessions to speak on topics of emotional fatigue and suicide prevention.
Veterinary Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Resources
To support the mental health of veterinarians, a range of invaluable resources and initiatives have emerged within the industry, offering guidance, assistance, and a lifeline in times of distress. In addition to the resources below, the AVMA also provides additional tools here.
- AVMA Wellbeing
- AVMA QPR Suicide Prevention Training
- Not One More Vet
- Veterinary Hope Foundation
- VetFuel: Let’s Move Upstream, Prevention
- VetFuel: A Dogged Pursuit to Prevent Veterinary Suicide
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 988
Emotional fatigue is a real and pressing issue in the veterinary profession, with potentially devastating consequences if left unaddressed. By recognizing the signs of distress and veterinary burnout, promoting self-care and mental health support, and advocating for systemic changes, we can work together to prevent emotional fatigue and reduce the risk of suicide among veterinarians.
The well-being of veterinarians is not only essential for their own sake but also for the welfare of the animals they care for and the clients who rely on their expertise. Let us continue to nurture the healers who dedicate their lives to the well-being of our animal companions and ensure they receive the support and care they deserve. Together, we can create a healthier and more sustainable veterinary profession.
If you are interested in learning more about how CVP is contributing to the well-being of our veterinarians, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.