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Mental Health Awareness Week: It’s Time to Talk About Mental Health in Veterinary Medicine

July 26, 2019

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. The conversation will kick off with an inaugural It’s time to talk about Mental Health in Vet Med Awareness Week from September 9 to 15, 2019.

In recognition of National Suicide Awareness day on September 10, a live webinar will be available for all veterinarians, RVTs, and clinic staff.
Participants will:

  • Learn and practice the 4 evidence-based coping strategies that have been specifically researched in veterinarians and technologists to help reduce burnout and stress.
  • Learn and practice simple steps on how to help a coworker who is in distress.
  • Leave the webinar with practical guidelines on how to start conversations about mental health in work environments.
  • Have access to a list of provincial and community mental health resources.

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.

Visit the CVMA website in August to download helpful resources including:

  • It’s time to talk about Mental Health in Vet Med Awareness Week poster.
  • Provincial and regional mental health community resource lists.
  • Mental health alert checklist to recognize signs and symptoms of burnout, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

This article was written by CVMA member, Dr. Kathy Keil. Dr. Keil is a member of the ABVMA Member Wellness Committee. She is also a technical services veterinarian for Merck and is the leading force behind this Mental Health Awareness Week campaign in collaboration with the CVMA.