In supporting the mental health and wellbeing of veterinarians, the AustralianVeterinary Association (AVA) firmly believes that addressing the risk factorsshould be the primary focus in reducing the high rate of suicide within theveterinary profession.

The AVA has identified long working hours, high workloads, poor work-lifebalance, the attitude of clients, and stress about performing euthanasia assome of the main contributing reasons leading to veterinarian suicide.

“The primary source of vet suicide is adverse psychosocial working conditions.Many in the veterinary profession suffer from high levels of anxiety,depression, stress and burnout, and high personal expectations due to theserisk factors”, said Dr Warwick Vale, AVA President.

A recent AVA survey of members found that the vast majority of vets aresupportive of measures to lock up potentially dangerous drugs used inveterinary procedures. Vets already restrict access to these drugs and keepthem securely stored when not in use.

The reporting requirements of the recently proposed Schedule 8 drugclassification are viewed as problematic by the profession, due to the natureof the volumes and often emergency circumstances under which these drugs areused.

“The AVA recommends that veterinary practices should limit access to anypotentially dangerous substances by non-veterinary staff, but those most atrisk – veterinarians – will still need access to these drugs on a regularbasis so as not to impact on animal welfare”, said Dr Vale.

“The AVA is here to support all members of the veterinary profession,especially those experiencing stress, anxiety and other impacts to theirmental health. We’ve implemented a range of initiatives to support veterinarymental health and wellbeing”, said Dr Vale.

The AVA’s VetHealth resources aim to address some of the risk factors andassist those responding when veterinarians are identified as being at risk orin a crisis situation. The AVA also provides access to a confidentialcounselling service, an HR Advisory service, together with seminars aroundresilience, wellness and mental health.

The AVA’s Mental Health First Aid Training program assists practice staff inidentifying employees who may be experiencing mental health issues and helpsthem know how to offer assistance. The goal is to eventually have a MentalHealth First Aid Officer in every veterinary workplace in Australia. The AVA’sGraduate Mentoring Program also pairs newly-graduating veterinarians with anexperienced colleague in another practice to provide support, while a new AVAstudent group has been launched to help prepare upcoming vets for enteringpractice.

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