An increase in workload and workflow is contributing to burnout, ill healthand loss of wellbeing for Australian veterinarians and their nursing staff,according to Dr Natasha Wilks, a veterinarian and Beyond Blue volunteer.
Dr Wilks has experienced first-hand the challenges COVID-19 has had onbusinesses and their teams over the past 14 months and says, “the need formental health support has never been more important.” Worryingly, researchshows that on average, an Australian takes their own life every twelve weeks,four times the rate of the general population.
“There are so many things which weigh on our minds; the long hours, financialstruggles, and the difficult situations veterinarians are placed in such asdelivering bad news to pet owners, emotional responses from clients unable toafford bills and even violence at the hands of customers,” continues Dr Wilks,who is also a veterinary career coach helping veterinary staff cope with thechallenges of the profession and improve their wellbeing.
While other industries might have experienced a decrease in work, vetpractices were busier than ever during the pandemic, and continue to be. Anincreased number of people working from home, pandemic puppy purchases and petowners spending more time at home with their animals have led to increasedclinic visitation.
“While hugely rewarding, the veterinary profession also entails numerouschallenges to mental health that necessitate the need for proactivemanagement. Currently, the increase in workload is exceeding capacity all day,every day. Vets are exhausted and overwhelmed. It is like running an ultra-marathon. There is currently a huge demand for vets and nursing staff, andwith everyone in the practice being so busy, there can be breakdowns in teamdynamics,” says Dr Wilks.
Dr Wilks is supporting the partnership between leading Animal Health companyZoetis and Beyond Blue, which is in its sixth year, with an on-demand webinar,Wellbeing for Vet Practices, with practical strategies for maintainingmental wellbeing in practice for vets and clinic staff.
Zoetis, who works closely with vet practices around Australia, supports themental health challenges faced by the veterinarian industry through itscrucial mental health partnership with Beyond Blue. Over the past five years,Zoetis has helped raise $500,000 by donating $5 from products sold during thecampaign period. In 2021, Zoetis aims to once again reach its $100,000fundraising target by the end of the year.
“Zoetis is proud to once again be supporting Beyond Blue and the importantwork they do,” says Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and ClusterLead, Australia and New Zealand. “We knew that supporting vet mental healthwas critical when we first embarked on this support campaign, but we didn’tknow then just how important the partnership would be. Together we have madestrong progress in supporting the mental health and wellbeing ofveterinarians, practice staff and nurses, and we are passionate about helpingagain this year.”
__ “All funds raised by Zoetis go towards the Beyond Blue Support Service. Todate, Zoetis’ donations across veterinary and rural farming initiatives haveallowed over 8,000 people, including vets, to get the help they need throughthe Beyond Blue Support Service and we are hoping to help more people thisyear,” he adds.
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the Beyond Blue Support Service continuedto experience increased demand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year has brought its challenges and people have got in touch with us formany reasons. They might be feeling worried, lonely, concerned about theirmental health or the mental health of friends and loved ones, finances or jobsecurity,” Ms Harman said.
“Whatever the reason, Beyond Blue wants people to know that no problem is toobig or small to reach out. Sometimes, just talking to someone can make adifference, and support is always available.
“We are very grateful to have the ongoing support of Zoetis and look forwardto working together so our Australian vets can access support. They help somany of us and our animals, now let’s help them,” said Ms Harman.
__ The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free and immediate counselling,advice and referrals via phone, webchat or email. In addition to the SupportService, Beyond Blue’s online resources can help people take steps towardsrecovery and feel less alone. Beyond Blue’s online forums tap into a peernetwork that gives people connection and support from others who have beenthrough similar experiences. The forums are safe and welcoming, monitored by aspecially trained team.
Beyond Blue’s NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a free and confidentialmental health coaching program. Delivered over six telehealth sessions,coaches who themselves have a small business background, help small businessowners experiencing stress and worry. Coaches operate with oversight fromclinicians and are trained to refer participants to specialist services ifrequired. For more information visit www.beyondblue.org.au/newaccess-SBO
For more information about depression and anxiety, visitwww.beyondblue.org.au. To talk to a mental health professional for free,contact the 24/7 Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 46 36.
Free web chat is also available from 3pm until midnight atbeyondblue.org.au/getsupport and you can join the forums for free and downloadthe safety planning BeyondNow app from the website.
 Suicide in Australian Veterinarians by Jones-Fairnie, Ferroni, Silburn,Lawrence, Australian Veterinary Journal
Image: Dr Natasha Wilks, a veterinarian and Beyond Blue volunteer
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