Tackling the mental health crisis in the veterinary profession

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SuperFriend, the national workplace mental health organisation, has partnered with the Australian Veterinary Association to develop a comprehensive mental health strategy to tackle the nationwide crisis for veterinarians.

Vets are four times more likely to die of suicide than the general population and two times more likely than any other healthcare profession. These risks are associated with a high-stress working environment with poor work-life balance due to long hours, demanding work, unsociable hours, and on-call work which form part of the day-to-day work of veterinarians.

Recent reports from the industry suggest that nearly 37 per cent of veterinarians are considering leaving clinical practice due to stress, anxiety, and poor work conditions—often described by those in the industry as a combination of being ‘over-tired, over-worked, underappreciated’. 

As a result, SuperFriend has been engaged by the AVA to take a holistic view of the industry, with a special emphasis on the veterinary role and the high risk of suicide associated with this role.

Through this partnership, SuperFriend will create a holistic strategy to positively impact the mental health outcomes of professionals across the industry through various interventions and initiatives.

The strategic approach by SuperFriend involves consulting widely with the veterinary industry, including focus groups with veterinarians and allied professionals including veterinary nurses and practice managers.

“An industry-wide approach is crucial to building a strategy that has positive outcomes for all vets,” SuperFriend CEO Margo Lydon said.

“This includes investing in further research and creating strong links with state health and safety regulators.”

This will include key industry stakeholders involved in professional standards, education, and clinical practice to impact mental health at a system level and influence large-scale change.

Strategic recommendations to address key risk factors across the veterinary industry include graduate mentoring and peer support framework, client interaction training, pet insurance strategies, personalised mental health resources on hand and appropriate support programs.

“These initial recommendations will be validated through focus groups and voice-of-industry activities before being finalised,” Lydon said.

“It’s most important to us that everyone in the veterinary industry is heard so we can provide a strategy that helps everyone. That’s why our work with the AVA is so crucial.”

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