Northern Beaches Veterinary Hospital vet Paul McGeown.
Northern Beaches Veterinary Hospital vet Paul McGeown. Lee Constable

Vets four times more likely to take their own life

THE daunting stresses and anxieties associated with the veterinary sciences has cast a spotlight on the challenges within the profession, with veterinarians much more likely to take their own life.

While health care professionals have long been prominent among industry suicide rates, the concerning regularity escalates among vets who are four times more likely than the general population to take their life; according to a study available on the Australian Veterinary Association's website.

A wealth of issues have seemingly contributed to this; including stress, the emotional turmoil of veterinary clients and the manner in which they deal with the loss of a pet.

However, according to Dr Paul McGeown, of Northern Beaches Veterinary Hospital, a prevalent factor is the perception of the industry by the public and the financial angst that comes with veterinary practice, and people needed to be aware of the impact that misrepresentation can have.

"We deal a lot with the public not being happy, thinking we're trying to rip them off, when really all we care about is the welfare of the animal.

"At the end of the day it's a business that needs to be run and money keeps it going," Dr McGeown said.

"People tend to forget our medicine is subsidised by Medicare, so what they pay is not actually what is paid to doctors whereas in veterinary there are no subsidies.

"I don't think a lot of people are aware suicide rates are so high in veterinary professions (and) I don't think they understand the emotional side of dealing with the public."

Mackay GP Dr John McIntosh, whose expertise in mental health inspired the Tuf Minds application, reiterated financial stress as a monumental issue, and said the strong emotional attachment people have to their animals plays a factor in the confrontation vets experience from their clients.