Supporting our customers means working on issues that matter to them professionally – and personally. For many years, Zoetis has been involved in raising awareness about mental health issues that impact the veterinary profession and by providing forums and resources to promote veterinary well-being and self-care. This World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10), we want to recognize the commitment of our colleagues, customers, and industry and academic partners in addressing mental health concerns.
Speaking About Wellness and Self-Care
“The reality is that the veterinary profession has an elevated suicide rate – almost 3 to 4 times higher than the general population – and reports elevated levels of psychological distress," said David Bartram, Director of Outcomes Research for Zoetis and noted expert and researcher on the topic. While caring for animals is highly rewarding, meaningful and fulfilling for many veterinarians, the profession also comes with a heavy workload, potential for compassion fatigue, demanding client expectations, financial burdens and other work-related stress.
“Mental health used to be the elephant in the room – something the profession was aware of but no one spoke about," said Bartram, who has co-authored multiple studies on mental health and well-being in veterinary surgeons. “Now, it's acknowledged. It's being discussed in the industry and people are much more proactive about their wellness and self-care."
Demonstrating Our Commitment to Vets
“Zoetis has been sponsoring projects and forums to discuss these issues since 2013," said Dr. Christine Jenkins, Vice President and U.S. Chief Medical Officer for Zoetis. “We work with many industry partners, associations and veterinary schools on meaningful ways to help alleviate mental health challenges for veterinary professionals. We take great pride in the relationships we have with our veterinary customers and students, and we often hear about these concerns. We take it as a personal challenge to help bring change."
Commitment to Veterinarians, the company's social media channel and platform for veterinary education and support, made “Veterinary Wellness" one of its pillars in 2015 and the need has remained clear. The topic of Wellness has been its most viewed content on social media over the years, and the company's courses related to this topic are among the most popular on its Vetvance career and education website (direct links to mental health videos available below).
Partnering Around the Globe
Zoetis' focus on mental health stresses the importance of veterinary well-being and creates awareness about ways veterinarians can practice self-care. Progress comes from working together in collaboration with various partners around the world.
The company has been working with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) on its Beyond Medicine workshop about Veterinary Well-being and Communications since 2014, and this year they are piloting a virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic – a time of increased mental stress. Zoetis is also developing in-clinic presentations for its veterinary professionals in the U.S. to deliver to customers and their staffs.
“We are looking at what we can do early on to help our customers recognize and understand the science behind emotional distress and compassion fatigue, and feel empowered to build their own resiliency plan to balance stressors," said Dr. Tara Bidgood, Executive Director of U.S. Veterinary Professional Services for Zoetis Petcare. “Our goal is to join together to improve wellbeing within our veterinary profession."
The Zoetis team in Australia has been a supporter of Beyond Blue – a mental health organization focused on anxiety, depression and suicide. Our livestock and veterinary customers in Australia are especially vulnerable to mental health challenges as a result of rural isolation and the damaging bushfires. The team has raised $500,000 over the last 5 years and published this video with mental health tips for World Mental Health Day this year.
In New Zealand, Zoetis initiated veterinary mental health workshops this year involving key stakeholders like the New Zealand Vet Council, New Zealand Veterinary Association, Massey University (veterinary school) and many vet practitioners. Their collaboration will be leading to changes in curriculum for continuing education programs (to be started in 2021) and a national campaign to help the public gain a greater appreciation for the contributions and value of veterinarians.
Zoetis has also continued to support learning about this issue, funding veterinary mental health research at the University of Guelph in Canada, while also sponsoring other wellness programs and retreats at veterinary schools in the country.
“At the end of the day, we don't want veterinarians to leave the profession because of stress or to suffer with mental health issues. We want them to have a sustainable, happy and healthy career doing what they love, and to feel supported by their colleagues and partners at Zoetis," said Jenkins.
Veterinary Mental Health Resources
For other information on Veterinary Well-being, you can check out:
- Well-Being Resources and Tools – American Veterinary Medical Association
- Mind Matters Initiative – Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (UK)
- Veterinary Social Work – University of Tennessee - Knoxville
- Not One More Vet