Column: Mental health matters

Veterinarians are put through severe stress and must take care of their mental health. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons

People in the medical profession face a lot on a daily basis; they are often put in difficult situations with their patients. Many of these people have witnessed death, illness and other immense hardships. All of these situations add up, and can create an incredible amount of stress in the workplace.

Many people, however, often overlook the stress and mental health of veterinarians. Vets are often put in very difficult situations, as they often take care of pets often for their entire life span.

We cannot continue overlooking the stress that veterinarians go through, as this stress is extremely detrimental to veterinarians’ mental health.

In a survey of more than 10,000 veterinarians, 1 in 6 said that they have considered suicide since they graduated. Veterinarians from the United States are three times more likely to consider suicide than the mean of the general populace. These figures are very similar to the numbers from other countries.

This is not only a problem for the United States; it is a problem across the world. Mental health is something that should be taken seriously, and people in the medical field should be given the help that they need, as their jobs often involve life-altering decisions.

This is especially true for veterinarians. Suicide rates for veterinarians are double those of others in the medical profession, such as doctors and dentists. This rate is four to six times the rate of the general populace.

The reasoning for these tragic suicide and depression rates is often the pet owners. Although many people who own pets take care of them and will stop at nothing to ensure that their pet has a good, long life, some people are unable to care for the pet, and did not realize that they were biting off more than they could chew when they first adopted the pet. Some owners want healthy pets to be put down because they are unable to take care of them.

Each year, approximately 2.7 million pets are euthanized. Therefore, veterinarians have access to many drugs that can be used for euthanasia, which can cause a lot of mental pain.

It is essential that people realize what veterinarians go through and try to be more aware of it. Mental health is not something that should be overlooked in any cases.

One of the first steps in helping with the mental health of veterinarians, as part of the general public, is to be more educated on the issue. For some, this entails being more educated on what it means to adopt a pet; if people know the amount of work and the costs that come with having a pet before they adopt, fewer people will request that veterinarians put down healthy pets. For others, this education entails being more appreciative; if people take a few seconds to appreciate what veterinarians do, it can really create a positive impact on their health.

On a governmental level, it should be required that people in the medical field, especially in this case veterinarians, receive mental health counseling on a more regular basis. If more veterinarians had a way to communicate their feelings, it would be very beneficial to their mental health.

Education and mandatory mental health counseling can make a major difference in not only the veterinarian’s life, but in the veterinarian’s family’s lives and in the veterinarian’s patients’ lives.

People must realize that overlooking the stress in environments in the medical field affects many people. We cannot continue this pattern of overlooking the mental health of veterinarians. We should make as many small differences as we can in order to help the best that we can.


Anika Veeraraghav is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at anika.veeraraghav@uconn.edu.