Vetlife - ourlivesmattertoo - vetsforvets
Today I would like to mention a major issue in our profession; suicide. Not because I like to complain but because I'm seriously worried for my profession, my colleagues and their health.
I recently read a post by an American veterinarian - Erin Wilkins - who just lost one of his young colleagues due to suicide. I don't know the author nor the loved colleague he lost but to all of us veterinarans this sounds very familiar.
You can read his emotional yet very honest story underneath:
Did you know that veterinarians have one of the highest risks for committing suicide? We are in the top 5 of all professions (with anesthesiologists, dentists,...), with in the US a 3.5 times bigger chance to die by suicide as any other member of the population. And then we didn't mention depression, burn-out, drop-out,... In Belgium most young vets stop their career in practice after 1-5 years (if they start at all), can you imagine!? We all know colleagues who didn't saw any other option anymore...
Young students make their decision to become a vet by a tremendous love for animals and the will to please both animals and their bosses. They are not driven by the idea of earning tons of money on their clients back. They are willing to work and most of them accept a very modest income. That in itself makes them vulnerable for caring too much and not taking care of themselves. Our clients become more and more demanding, asking better service than in human hospitals without willing to pay more than a small amount of money. This puts an enormous pressure on our (young) veterinarians.
But we also need to confess that we -as a profession- don't take care of our colleagues the best we can. Why can't we protect each other a little more, why do we bring colleagues to court for 'stealing a client', why do we exploit our young vets (time-and moneywise)? Why can't we work together and share our duties? We need to take better care of ourselves and our colleagues. Maybe our education doesn't train us well enough to withstand all difficulties that come with our profession. Even when more than 80% of our students is female these days we still consider our profession as a 'macho'-profession where you should never talk about your difficulties, emotions or weaknesses.
I hope that I can help by listening when one of my colleagues needs support, by coaching and mentoring some young vets and students. I hope they dare to ask me for help when needed. As Erin said in his post 'I love this profession...but I hate seeing what it does to it's own people.'
We can't bring back Lindsey Thomas Frugé but hopefully we can avoid the loss of other veterinarians in need. Let us work together for good veterinary care in balance with our veterinarians life & health. In the end we can't help our animals and their owners the best we can if we don't take care of ourselves.