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The Power of Storytelling for Creating Awareness and Connection

By Leann Benedetti
DVM, ACC, CCFP, BSc / The Veterinary Coach

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, I find myself wondering …

How many people told their story? Were you aware the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) campaign for 2023 followed a theme that encouraged canadians to tell their stories and mental health journeys?  #MyStory advocated for mental health support for all Canadians.  A worthy cause, and a lofty goal without doubt.

It is not the goal of this blog to prove the importance of this conversation, emphasize the concerns around the mental health of veterinary professionals, or cite statistics to convince anyone of anything.  I do however want to highlight the power of community and common humanity that is created when we share our stories.  Storytelling can create connection, reduces stigma, and allows for the creation of powerful spaces for recovery and change.

Regardless of who we are or what we do, we all experience things in life that challenge us.  Having a safe space to discuss those challenges, process appropriately, receive support, and ultimately heal, learn, grow and recover is key.  The good news?? Available resources have grown over the last number of years, including those that are ‘veterinary specific’.

The ongoing challenge??  The ‘need’ for support in the areas of mental and emotional health for veterinary professionals has been acknowledged as growing area of concern and has been an ongoing conversation for well over a decade.  Subjectively, the ‘uptake’ of resources is perceived to be quite low, despite the high level of concern and need.  As a neutral observer, that makes me curious as to the possible reasons for this gap.  As a 27 year veteran of the profession, and more recently as a provider of support to the profession, and someone that has shared #mystory, I understand the complexity of the space that represents that ‘gap’. 

Exploration of the ’Gap’ is also not the purpose of this blog. The purpose of this blog is to remind you that you are not alone.  There are a growing list of resources that are being created with specific focus in the veterinary community when it comes to mental health, and workplace well-being.  This list includes just a few – and I encourage you to search for a format, resource, and information that works for you. When you don’t know where to start – wherever you are, is as good a place as any.

CVMA Veterinary Health & Wellness Resources
24/7 Peer-to-Peer Online Support – Togetherall with a specific veterinary ‘wall’
The Working Mind – Mental Health Commission of Canada being offered to Canadian Veterinary Hospitals through the CVMA
OVMA i matter
Mental Health Commission of Canada
Canadian Mental Health Association
EASAV – Peer Support for Canadian Veterinarians in a Group Format
The VIN Foundation – Vets4Vets