Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Veterinary Suicide Awareness funding

We have been asked to help publicize this important message from our colleague Dr. Myers over at justvetdata.com... She is working hard to facilitate this veterinary suicide awareness webinar, and has reached out to AVMA for funding but AVMA as we know is not necessarily the fastest horse out of the gate, and she is working on a deadline!

Last month the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) held its annual conference in Orlando Florida.  I organized a day long program called Ignite!, designed to present ideas to help us positively engage the profession's most challenging issues. Some of the issues were burnout, suicide, convenience euthanasia, mindfulness and respect.

A veterinary suicide working group formed after the presentation and breakout.  The informal working group has been offered the opportunity of putting on a free suicide awareness and prevention webinar in May courtesy of Justine Lee and VetGirlOnTheRun. The webinar spot is in May- the month in which the most suicides occur.

Each free, RACE approved webinar attracts hundreds of veterinarians, according to Justine Lee of VetGirlOnTheRun.  So in addition to presenting truly life saving information to a large number of vets at a critical time, we could ask how many vets are personally affected by this issue. We can use that info to get more money and support for dealing with suicide and depression in the veterinary profession.

We would like to pursue RACE approval for the webinar.  The group has assembled suitable content and presenters, but we need funding of $240 for the RACE accreditation fee

I've emailed AVMA for the funding at the suggestion of incoming AVMA president Ted Cohn.  Ted was kind enough to moderate part of the Ignite! session for me.  He has been personally affected by the suicide of a colleague, and is thus following the working group's progress and looking for ways to enable the AVMA to support efforts to address this issue.

But - we need to submit for RACE approval by Mar 1, and I don't know that AVMA will be able to respond in that time frame.  So, I'd like to ask people to send money so we can fund RACE approval for this webinar.  I would ask each of you to send $1. Symbolic that any one can help no matter how little you have to give, and symbolic that it takes everyone giving something to get the job done. 

Any funds over the $240 will be directed toward the working group's further efforts, which I'm happy to talk about in additional emails.  Send money using Paypal to vsworkinggroup@gmail.com (free to friends from your bank account or paypal balance).

We here at VBB Central are hopeful that with increased awareness and colleague-to-colleague support, we can nip this problem in the bud before it gets worse. It's all about relationships. Reach out to a colleague in need. Talk to a difficult client like you'd talk to a friend. Try to change people's perception one person at a time! And also, please, donate to help make this webinar a reality!


  1. Don't worry - if $ isn't covered by AVMA, VetGirlOnTheRun will cover the costs. It's for a good cause. @VetGirlOnTheRun @drjustinelee #savelives

  2. Thanks, Grey Man, and thanks Justine, for the additional generosity, and thanks to VBB admins for the publicity.

  3. Loved Ignite! That talk especially good about discussing the effects of social isolation on suicidal ideation - if others in our profession know they're not alone with the kind of feelings they're experiencing and that all of us are in this together - we can save lives.

  4. I disagree with one point: no veterinarian has to talk to a difficult client like that person is a friend.

    No matter who the client is, always be polite. Be professional. Document thoroughly, including all phone calls. Prepare written estimates, and require client signatures. Provide clients with printouts of their records. Do this for all clients, happy, disgruntled and in-between.

    Now the critical point for veterinarians struggling with compassion fatigue: you can say no. Particularly if you feel pressured or bullied by a client, you should say no. Research shows that the chances a veterinarian or physician will trigger a malpractice or board complaint are magnified when the clinician's relationship with the client is poor.

    Read your state's standards for veterinary practice and talk to your malpractice carrier, attorney or state board if you need legal advice in creating a practice policy. In most states, unless an animal is critically ill, a veterinarian has the right to refer the client elsewhere. Do it. The local veterinary school is usually an excellent first choice (even if you're fond of your alma mater) because veterinary schools employ a fleet of attorneys who are adept at dealing with difficult clients.

    If I'd learned to do this earlier in my career I might still be in private practice.

  5. Very good point, Jenna, and I agree. I think we've been taught that we are supposed to tolerate bad behavior because we are in an "emotional field" but the downside to that is that the behaviors are escalating now (I love saying their responses are disproportionate to the events. Example: A client screaming at your receptionist for something trivial) and it's taking a huge toll on many of us. I am nowhere near suicidal but I have reached a point with my own CP that I am just not able to put up with it like I used to. I think this is true of ALL professions, too... certainly not just veterinarians. The bullies of the schoolyard of yesterday are now the bullies standing up and abusing people as adults.

    Sorry to get off on a tangent - I think the Suicide Awareness campaign is a great idea and a very helpful resource. I, too, will support financially.

  6. " (even if you're fond of your alma mater) "
    Made my day!

  7. I would like to get more involved. Is there a website or forum? Contact information for the campaign?

  8. Erin, holler at me eden@justvetdata.com and we'll find how you can contribute.