Thousands of veterinary professionals around the world have reportedexperiencing stress and diminished well-being in an online survey conducted bythe World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

The findings show that stress and diminished well-being are a problem for allmembers of the veterinary team and in all areas of the world. They alsoindicate that the most seriously affected appear to be females, youngerprofessionals and veterinary nurses/technicians.

Conducted by the WSAVA’s Professional Wellness Group (PWG), the survey wascompleted by more than 4,000 veterinary professionals and analyzed using theKessler Psychological Distress tool, which measures anxiety and depression; aSatisfaction with Life scale and a Satisfaction with Career scale. The resultswere presented by Dr Nienke Endenburg, a psychologist and Co-Chair of the PWGduring WSAVA World Congress in Toronto on 17 July and followed by an expertpanel discussion.

The results also indicate a reluctance to talk about mental health in Africaand Asia. While this may not be an easy topic to discuss in any culture, asthe profession is developing very quickly in these continents, particularly inAsia, the WSAVA believes that barriers to the open discussion of mental healthissues are of significant concern.

During the subsequent panel discussion veterinary professionals wereencouraged to take control of their well-being by making smart career choices,supporting their colleagues and committing to ‘self-care.’

Panelist Dr Jen Brandt, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Directorof Member Wellbeing and Diversity Initiatives, said: “Well-being is theoutcome of individual choices, organizational culture and potentially a hostof other factors.

“When we refer to self-care, we aren’t just talking about behaviors andchoices that are comfortable or easy. What we are really referring to is theintentional, consistent practice of taking an active role in protecting one’sown well-being, recognizing when needs exist, and taking responsibility foraddressing them.

“Sometimes, this requires making difficult choices, including leavingrelationships or environments that are not a healthy fit. I often tell folksthat we cannot give away what we do not have. If we want our environments tobe healthy, a key starting point is prioritizing our own emotional andphysical well-being.”

Dr Endenburg said: “Our research – the first global study of veterinarywellness – confirms a probable correlation between a career in veterinarymedicine and an elevated risk of mental health issues. It’s likely that thisis caused by a combination of factors including working environment, personalcharacteristics and client pressures. We are very concerned at the impact thisis having on thousands of veterinary professionals worldwide and believe itmust be addressed without delay.

She continued: “The study has provided us with some very important data whichwe are now analyzing in more detail and preparing for scientific publication.We will then develop an urgent action plan.

“As part of the plan, we will share the helpful resources already created bysome veterinary associations. We will also develop additional tools to ensureall veterinary healthcare team members can access help when they have – orideally before they have – a mental health problem. We hope our efforts willbe another important step towards bringing about positive change and enhancingthe well-being of all veterinarians globally.”

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