Using the occasion of October being National Mental Health Month, the Australian Veterinary Association has announced a partnership with SuperFriend—an organisation that specialises in designing workplace mental health initiatives to mitigate the many stressors associated with working in the veterinary profession.
Far from being all about spending time with puppies and kittens, working as a veterinarian comes with long hours, staffing shortages, financial pressures, and increased expectations from pet owners—at times, leading to negative vet/client interactions, and in some cases, even abusive behaviour towards veterinarians—all of which take a significant toll on mental health.
“Veterinarians bring their compassionate and caring approach to working with all animals, great and small,” AVA president Dr Warwick Vale said.
“This empathy, combined with long working hours, high workloads, the attitude of challenging clients, and poor work-life balance, are contributing risk factors to the high prevalence of anxiety, depression, stress, burnout and suicide seen within the veterinary profession.”
To tackle the crisis, the AVA have enlisted SuperFriend to help with developing a comprehensive veterinary wellness strategy for the profession. The project has just completed an extensive research stage, collecting the thoughts and experiences of those veterinarians ‘on the ground’, through extensive focus group discussions, one-on-one interviews and an industry-wide stakeholder survey completed by over 2500 respondents.
“We are dealing with an extremely complex issue, so we have been acutely aware that the success of any wellness strategy developed, would be reliant upon the input of as many voices as possible from within our profession,” Dr Vale said.
“The overwhelming response we have had from all corners of the veterinary community will help us to produce a strategy with the power to create the positive, meaningful and sustainable change we so desperately need.”