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 2020 campaign will run from September 6 to 12, featuring another webinar held on World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2020.

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. 


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.


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.