Startling statistics in a profession at risk.
Three ways to stem a crisis.
Blair McConnel, VMD, MBA
Veterinary Hope Foundation Board President and Founder of Spotlight Solutions LLC
Most veterinarians and animal care professionals will admit they dreamed of working with animals long before that dream came true. For us, it’s more of a calling than a career. And so, when we hear the statistic that veterinarians are about three times more likely than the general population to die by suicide,1 it stops us in our tracks. When we continue to see our colleagues and friends take their lives or leave the profession to save their lives, we can’t stay quiet anymore.
In March, I teamed up with Bader Rutter, as well as a handful of veterinarians and mental health practitioners with the common goal to stop wringing our hands and take real action to address the issue. In our minds, there are three areas to focus on:
- Generating broad awareness of the crisis outside the veterinarian community
- Creating an expert-backed foundation that could provide early prevention, education and community support to help stem this crisis
- Sending out a widespread call for gratitude, appreciation and, ultimately, hope for veterinarians
With the help of pet care marketers, we can address these areas and create lasting change.
While the veterinary community is personally and acutely aware that its profession is at risk, the general population is not. When you bring up the startling statistics, people react with shock, confusion and concern. Why is this happening? The reasons are multifold: crushing student debt, , confrontational pet owners, performing euthanasia on a regular basis (and not performing it when we should) and, of course, the emotional exhaustion that comes from knowing you could save one more animal if you worked longer hours, but your children and family would suffer. In so many ways, veterinarians feel that they are never enough, that they are always failing someone, either the pet, the angry owner, or their family.
Pet care marketers:
What are you doing to help increase consumer awareness of this crisis? How can you help mitigate the causes of their stress? How can you use your platform and influential voice to help create change?
We knew to make a meaningful difference, we needed to link veterinarians with tools and resources to navigate their challenges. We established a nonprofit organization to focus on early prevention, education and connection programs specifically tailored to the animal care community. Its name is Veterinary Hope Foundation. Our mission is to increase awareness of the startling high rate of suicide in the veterinary profession and provide veterinarians with the preventive support and tools they need to navigate the common stressors unique to their profession. We are focused on offering multiple interactive support groups for veterinarians, each one led by a mental health professional. Groups will focus on issues meaningful to practicing veterinarians, such as dealing with distraught clients, balancing family and work, handling grief and building emotional stamina. As we receive more funding, we plan to expand these programs to support the entire animal care community.
Pet care marketers:
Join our cause. Prove you care and help us protect a profession at risk. The foundation has industry partners sponsor programming at varying details. Contact me to learn more and visit VeterinaryHope.org.
Providing appreciation, respect and hope are a great first step toward helping veterinarians feel seen and understood. That’s why we launched Veterinary Hope Foundation with a social awareness campaign called Share Vet Love that asks pet owners to have their animals thank their veterinarians and bring needed awareness to a crisis in a loving way. We believe that by joining together the veterinary community with pet families and pet care companies, we can help those struggling in the animal care community. We can bring hope.
Pet care marketers:
How do you show appreciation for the veterinary community? Do you treat them as a channel or sales force or partners? How do you make sure they know you see, hear and understand them? Join our #ShareVetLove movement to make veterinarians seen and appreciated.
If you’re unsure how to start building more powerful alignment with the veterinarians your brand relies on, we can help. Learn more at baderrutter.com/petcare.
Tomasi SE, Fechter-Leggett ED, Edwards NT, Reddish AD, Crosby AE, Nett RJ. Suicide among veterinarians in the United States from 1979 through 2015. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019;254(1):104-112. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.254.1.104
About the Author
Blair McConnel, VMD MBA, brings extensive experience to the Bader Rutter Pet Care Practice. She is a veterinarian who worked in the industry for ten years and led Zoetis’ marketing team. She has also led several start-ups, including two businesses which provide management and business consulting services to veterinarians. With a passion for growing businesses, her belief is that good strategy is the foundation to growth.