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Mental health crisis afflicting the field of veterinary medicine

By Karen Tousignant, BComm, CCPE
Publisher, Canadian Vet Practice newsmagazine

You are an animal lover.

You are a veterinarian.

You are struggling.

You are not alone.

There is always someone there to listen.

A March 2021 CBC news article identified that research published a year prior, by the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), indicated that more than a quarter of Canadian veterinarians reported suicidal thoughts in the previous 12 months.  Veterinarians say that the pandemic has added to their stress. Sudbury veterinarian, Dr. Darren Stinson, was quoted as saying, “”Veterinary medicine, unfortunately, has the highest suicide rate among professionals in the United States, and it’s very close in Canada as well.” 

An April 3, 2022, CBC news article further addressed this issue, after series of interviews with Canadian veterinarians revealed that overwork, pet owners, and debt load is leading to burnout of veterinary professionals.  The article revealed that the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 30 per cent of Canadian veterinarians and 50 per cent of vet technicians are in the advanced stages of burnout.

Supply of vets just can’t meet the growth in demand.  There aren’t enough veterinarians and staff to care for pets and livestock across the country, even as the number of pets — and the intensity of people’s attachment to them — grows, the CBC article explained. 

Animal Calling, a short documentary released in May 2022, follows a recently graduated, young veterinarian as she reflects on the mental health issues currently impacting the field of veterinary medicine.  After a calm moment at home in her garden, we’re transported to her place of work and shown the emotional and psychological challenges faced by those working in animal care.

Alongside the short documentary, Animal Calling, stories of individuals who have dedicated their lives to the care of animals, are shared at www.animalcallingdoc.com.  The aim is to raise awareness about the mental health challenges the field is facing and to inspire others to share their stories as well. 

A list of links to various mental health and community resources specifically catered towards veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and animal health support staff is provided on the Animal Calling website, including Not One More Vet (nomv.org), Reviving Veterinary Medicine by Dr. Marie Holowaychuk (marieholowaychuk.com), and i matter. (i-matter.ca) as well as several others.

I encourage all veterinary professionals to take steps to address mental health issues that may be impacting them personally or affecting members of the clinic team.  Watching the Animal Calling documentary, and utilizing some of the provided resources, is an excellent starting point.  Stay well.



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