The Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi) supports the call for government to invest $3m towards supporting the lives and well-being of Australian veterinarians.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) called on both major parties ahead of the federal election to commit $3 million over five years towards veterinary mental health, with the investment including whole of career mentoring, dedicated veterinary counselling services, and the development and delivery of veterinary specific education material.
Tegan Carrison, Executive Director at AAPi, said veterinarians had one of the highest suicide rates in the world and that in Australia a vet takes their own life every 12 weeks.
“Not only do we need to increase awareness of the pressure they are under and normalise the need to seek support, we need to make psychological services more accessible so help is there when it is needed.”
Carrison said that the Medicare rebate for all psychologists needed to be raised to $150 so those who needed mental health could afford it.
Dr Nadine Hamilton, AAPi psychologist and a leading expert on veterinarian mental health, said she had made a submissions, including a pre-budget submission by AAPi in 2021, for grant funding for vet mental health but they had all been rejected.
“I feel the government is not seeing the desperate need in this profession. The funding we applied for would have gone towards counselling, wellbeing workshops and educational resources.”
Hamilton said although public awareness of veterinary mental health had improved, a stigma amongst the profession about seeking help remained.
“A lot of vets feel ashamed about asking for help and often don’t want to go to their GP in the beginning to get a referral to a psychologist – if they could self-refer it would streamline the process.
“Vet nursing staff are also under pressure and often need counselling but for them it is often a budgetary issue that stops them from going.”
If you are a veterinarian who is experiencing a difficult time, please call the Australian Veterinary Association on 1300 687 327 for confidential telephone counselling.