Eliminating the stigma
I trust that you’ve heard or read about the mental health crisis afflicting too many U.S. veterinary professionals. But did you know that it’s a global problem?
In July, I attended the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s World Congress, which was held in Toronto in conjunction with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association annual convention. WSAVA’s Professional Wellness Group used the occasion to release preliminary results from an online survey of 4,258 people, primarily veterinarians but also veterinary nurses, technicians and students. Among the findings was one that jumped out: There is no significant difference between the continents in regard to well-being and mental health.
“We can’t say, for instance, that in Asia the well-being is much better or worse than in North America,” said committee co-chair Nienke Endenburg, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Utrecht veterinary school in the Netherlands.
The committee’s long-term plan is to dive deeper into the numbers, publish a scientific manuscript and by 2021 craft guidelines on ways to improve the mental health and well-being of veterinary professionals worldwide.
The preliminary results were consistent with what the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study revealed about the U.S. profession when those findings were released in early 2018. The Merck study pointed to long working hours, low income, high student loan debt and stress as particular trouble spots.
The WSAVA committee members emphasized the need to lift the stigma that is often attached to mental health and well-being. “In Asia and Africa, in particular, there is a reluctance to talk about mental health issues,” Dr. Endenburg said.
I was touched by what a South Korean veterinarian wrote in a comment appended to her WSAVA survey. I agree wholeheartedly.
“We are helping clients and patients to become happier,” she said. “Now it’s time to think about helping ourselves to be happier.”
What do you think? Email me at [email protected].
Ken Niedziela, editor