With Movember in full swing this month, it’s time we shed some light on the elephant in the room in the veterinary industry.

There is a deep problem that only those from inside the ranks are acutely aware of.

Mental health and suicide are ravaging the industry.

For those within the industry, most, if not all, know someone – or know of someone, who has committed suicide. Studies throughout Australia and globally show the extremely high rates of mental health-related issues and suicide within the industry when compared to the rest of the population.

The Australian Veterinary Association states a recent study showing veterinarians in Western Australia and Victoria have been shown to be up to four times more likely to fall victim to suicide. Another study states the high levels of negative emotions at work when compared to other professions.

Vets are even double as likely to fall victim to suicide than other healthcare professionals including doctors, dentists, pharmacists and nurses.

Additionally, male veterinarians are four times more likely to commit suicide than their female veterinarian counterparts.

The Western Australian study ‘Suicide in Australian Veterinarians’ revealed poisoning by injectable drugs was the most common cause of suicide and 9 out of 11 vets who took their own lives between 1990 and 2002 were from regional or rural towns.

Why is the suicide rate so high in the vet industry?

Common issues reported by vets and practice staff include:

  • Long and unsociable working hours
  • On-call stress and from clinical procedures
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Difficult clients
  • Inadequate pay
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Finding and retaining staff
  • Poor job satisfaction

It is a problem of epic proportions.

What can be done to help the industry?

Reducing stress is a key factor to improve the state of the industry. This includes both emotional, mental and financial stress factors. Vet practices that foster nurturing work environments with a positive culture go a long way to improving the state of the industry, and the job satisfaction of its employees.

Identifying some key steps to helping your staff’s mental health can include:

  • Adequate remuneration
  • Generating a positive work culture
  • Fostering a work-life balance
  • Fair and adequate rostering with sufficient breaks and days off
  • Clear practice rules of no tolerance to abusive behaviour
  • Clear hours of operation and expectations

When it comes to financial stress, practice owners and managers will benefit from tailored business advice aimed at reducing the financial stress on the practice. Good planning, effective budgeting and forecasting and staff management are key to a solid financial position.

With the mental health of its employees such a critical factor, ensuring adequate insurance is in place is also an important factor for practice owners to consider. Partnering with a financial planner that specialises in the industry and understands its key challenges can help to ensure the longevity of your practice and the retention of staff.

If you’d like to have a confidential discussion with our veterinary practice specialists, please give us a call or reach out via email.