CVMA-ACMV

Mental Health Awareness Resources

it’s Time to Talk about Mental Health in Veterinary Medicine

Mental Health Awareness Week

There are important reasons to start talking about mental health in the veterinary profession. Difficult to see, mental health issues, problems, and illness affect many people working in veterinary clinics. 

While one in five Canadian veterinarians and technologists have reported suicide ideation, burnout, and depression, most will be cautious about talking to a co-worker, friend, or family member about it. They are even less likely to adopt self-care strategies or seek professional help. And while some members of the veterinary profession may not experience mental illness first-hand, it is likely they know someone who has or will experience mental illness.

Stigma is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. Merck Animal Health and the CVMA are leading the way to start open and honest conversations about mental health in the veterinary community, help breakdown stigma, and create a community where members look out for and help one another. 

Each year, the CVMA and Merck Animal Health will kick off It’s time to talk about Mental Health in Veterinary Medicine Awareness Week in September.

The 2021 campaign will run from September 5 to 11, featuring another webinar held on World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2021.

We all deserve to be heard, to know that we are not alone, to feel worthy to look after ourselves, and feel empowered to keep each other safe from harm. 


After a Suicide: A Guide for Veterinary Workplaces

The suicide death of an employee can leave a veterinary workplace faced with grieving employees, clients and industry partners, media attention, and a community struggling to understand what happened and why. In this situation, a veterinary workplace needs reliable information, practical tools and guidance to help respond immediately, help the community heal, and return to their primary mission of caring for their patients and community. Read more here.


Toolkit for People who have been Impacted by a Suicide Loss

There is no right or wrong way to seek help. This toolkit is not designed to be an exhaustive list of the very wide variety of resources available across Canada for support. This toolkit is a summary of the tools that have resonated most with the hundreds of people who completed our online survey and resources from a literature review completed by the Centre for Suicide Prevention. 

If you are not finding the tools and resources that resonate most with you, you may consider talking with someone. You may wish to connect with a trained volunteer by contacting your local distress centre or Kids Help Phone.

Read more here.


Ongoing Study on Suicidal Risk Among Animal Healthcare Professionals

Whether you are a veterinarian, animal health technician, medical supporter worker, administrative assistant, or animal handler in a shelter, this survey on mental health is for you! Read more here.


Frequency, Stressfulness and Type of Ethically Challenging Situations Encountered by Veterinary Team Members During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Anne Quain from Australia has done some interesting research on ethically challenging situations (ECS) faced by veterinarians during the pandemic. She found that the median frequency of ECS encountered by respondents increased from several times per month to several times per week during the pandemic. Read full paper here.


Suicide Safety Stickers

It is critically important to focus suicide prevention at the level of pentobarbital access in veterinary clinics based on recent research that shows a strong link between veterinary suicide and access to pentobarbital.1 

Dr. Elizabeth Spitzer, a co-researcher on this study will be a guest speaker on the September 10, 2020 webinar in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day. The webinar will also launch the safety sticker. The sticker serves as an administrative safety control in the hierarchy of occupational health and safety controls. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety describe a hierarchy of controls2  for limiting exposure to occupational hazards.

In regard to pentobarbital in veterinary settings, it is not feasible or desirable to use elimination controls, which involve physically removing the hazard; substitution controls, which involve replacing the hazard; or engineering controls, which involve isolating people from the hazard. This means that administrative controls, which involve changing the way people work and interact with the drug safe and pentobarbital, is the most viable option for limiting pentobarbital access.

As such, a veterinarian who is in distress, having suicidal thoughts in the clinic and thinking about a means to kill oneself will hopefully see the sticker and hit the pause button to hinder the suicidal act. To help them move back from the precipice while ensuring they get compassionate help. There is no single winning solution to prevent suicides in veterinary profession. This is just one tactic, yet a very concrete one. Please download the sticker on adhesive paper and post in your clinic.

  • Choose printer setting “actual size” for a 3” by 5” sticker. 
  • Choose printer setting “fit” for 8” x 11” sticker.

References:

  1. Witte, T. K., Spitzer, E. G., Edwards, N., Fowler, K. A., & Nett, R. J. (2019). Suicides and deaths of undetermined intent among veterinary professionals from 2003 through 2014. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 255(5), 595-608. https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdfplus/10.2460/javma.255.5.595 
  2. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/hazard_control.html

Resources

  • View previous webinars here
  • Access more mental health resources in the right menu bar.