Let’s start with a little bit about me. I am a Credentialed Veterinary Technician with a fantastic career in the veterinary industry with Vetamac. I am a mom of two amazing young teens, two dogs, a horse and a ball python. My life from the outside looking in, appears great. Truth be told, it really is. But something happened to me this past October, that shattered both myself and my family to the core and stripped away our picture-perfect life. I lost my mom to renal disease and diabetes on October 27, 2022. My mom was such an integral part of our lives. She’s that mom that would go above and beyond for her children and grandchildren anytime she could, without question. I could always talk with her whenever I needed support, or a shoulder to cry on. She was there for my kids to take, and pickup whenever needed. The love she had for us was undeniable. We were her world, and we knew that every day she was here with us.
Now you may be wondering why I would tell you about such a personal event in my life. The truth is, once I lost my mom, a huge part of me was lost as well. Physically here and healthy, but mentally, I was struggling. For four months, whenever I was not working or spending time with my children, I would just lay around and sleep. I could see all the signs of depression but wouldn’t let anyone else know I was facing such a hard time. I braved a smile and when asked how I was, answered with the generic “I’m doing ok”. That’s what we think we need to do, right? I remember nearing Christmas time specifically, my mom’s favorite time of year, going into a dollar tree to get a gift bag and started panicking as I saw the Christmas décor. I had to leave the store and go home. I brushed it off and told myself I was OK, but deep down I knew otherwise. I had the “I don’t need help” mentality until I realized what I was doing wasn’t working. Coming to the realization, I chose to search for what resources were out there. What started as just tools for myself, soon had me wanting to share with you what I found.
I started with Merck Animal Health Wellbeing Study III, conducted in 2021, which included a new companion survey of Veterinary support staff that showed lower scores in wellbeing and mental health, and higher scores in burnout than the Veterinarians participating in the study. 65% of distressed veterinary support staff said they needed mental health treatment in the past year but did not get it. 1 With research showing this is an ongoing issue in the industry, how do we end the stigma surrounding mental health? My thought is to share what resources are out there. No matter what the circumstances are, we all deserve to have a voice and speak openly about the troubles we face, and know we are not alone. You matter. Truth is: We all fall apart sometimes and need help putting ourselves back together but may not know how to start.
As a credentialed Veterinary technician, I found that through my licensure, I have full access to a Veterinary Professional Assistance Program. The program includes counseling, life coaches, and a mobile app that covers topics from family, life, health, finances and work. Looking further, I was able to find that over 36 states offer some form of Veterinary assistance program, with that number increasing. Many of those programs reach the veterinary technician and support staff. 2 Outside of this, many employers have seen the need to offer an employee assistance program for their staff. Most EAP’s offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to help employees deal with personal and/or work-related problems. 3 I found various programs available at many levels in the veterinary industry. It is worth asking your employer if they offer any type of EAP.
Another good resource, one most of us are very familiar with: Not One More Vet. NOMV is not just for Veterinarians. They offer a Peer support program called lifeboat that is available to anyone employed in the veterinary field that may need support in their mental health and have a Facebook forum specifically for all support staff.4 Additionally a new initiative founded in 2021 is the Veterinary Mental Health Initiative or VMHI for short. They too serve Veterinarians and veterinary technicians, offering a peer support group in five areas; Experienced Veterinarians (15+ Years in Practice), Early Career Veterinarians (Recent Graduates), Representation and Inclusion Concerns in Veterinary Medicine, Colleagues of Veterinarians who have passed from Suicide and a Veterinary Technicians Group. 5
Lastly, if you find yourself just wanting to support colleagues, there are things out there you can do. AAHA created a Healthy Workplace Culture Initiative6 that provides practices with resources to design and build optimal, customized, healthy cultures. There is also free suicide prevention training available through the AVMA called QPR7. This training is an hour-long course that all veterinary staff can participate in. You may just be the voice that helps someone in need one day.
- Veterinary Wellbeing Study | Merck Animal Health USA (merck-animal-health-usa.com)
- State wellbeing programs for veterinary professionals | American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org)
- Employee assistance program – Wikipedia
- Veterinary Mental Health Initiative – Shanti Project
- AAHA’s Culture Initiative
- QPR suicide prevention training | American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org)