World Mental Health Day is a timely reminder of the higher rates of mental health issues that veterinarians face compared to the general population.

Independent research conducted by the AVA in 2021, revealed that 66.6 per cent of veterinary respondents stating they have or are experiencing a mental health condition, compared to 61.8 per cent nationally.

Specifically, 41.6 per cent of respondents stated they had experienced a mental health condition in the past 12 months.

Dr. Claire Jenkins, veterinarian and founder of Vetchat, said being a veterinarian is a very rewarding job, however it does have its challenges.

“Often presenting animals are in crisis – we are trying to do best for the pet – often under financial constraint as unlike human health care there is no Medicare or government support. Veterinarians are empathetic and focus wholly on the care of the patient, which often doesn’t stop at the end of a shift.”

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has announced they will be holding their Veterinary Wellness Roundtable on 26 October, 2022, with its purpose to discuss how the veterinary community can work as one to support veterinarians and veterinary staff to lead satisfying, prosperous, and healthy careers.

Dr Bronwyn Orr, President of the AVA, said the intent of the discussion is to build on the extensive work conducted last year by SuperFriend and will help to inform the next steps for the development of an industry-led mental health and wellbeing strategy inclusive of a suicide prevention and intervention framework.

“We are excited to have a diverse group of stakeholders involved in this discussion. Our guests include industry experts in the field of mental health, veterinary professionals from a range of disciplines and our newly formed AVA Veterinary Wellness Steering Group.”

The Veterinary Wellness Roundtable will assist the association to identify gaps in their approach to formulating the overarching industry framework and guidelines pertaining to mental health in the veterinary industry, and will be moderated by Jorgen Gullestrup, a leader in workplace mental health and suicide prevention. 

Jenkins said pet owners can support veterinarians by having a focus on wellness and prevention first, and on early intervention when it comes to sickness.

“Purchasing pet insurance provides security that in the unenviable event a pet is in need of emergency care, the removal of financial constraint means the pet can quickly get the treatment that is needed to best help. 

“Pet carers can also support their veterinarians and vet nurses by being patient and understanding. We are in a high stress job and often understaffed, doing the best we can under sometimes difficult circumstances.” 

Earlier this year, the AVA launched their industry-led wellness initiative, THRIVE, that seeks to support and protect the wellbeing of all veterinary practitioners. More information regarding the AVA Veterinary Wellness Roundtable can be found on the THRIVE website.