Flynn’s Walk - now an Australian registered charity - first started in 2018, to honour the memory of veterinarian Dr Flynn Hargreaves who died by suicide, and to bring together the community and increase awareness of the mental health issues faced by veterinarians.
Jack Levitt was a close friend of Dr Hargreaves and is the President and Co-founder of Flynn’s Walk.
“After Flynn's passing, we learnt a lot more about the challenges and struggles that are faced by many veterinary professionals in their line of work. We also discovered the alarming statistics surrounding veterinarians and the high rate of suicide - a vet dies by suicide about every 12 weeks. We set up the walk to spread awareness of this devastating issue across the general community - particularly animal lovers and pet owners,” explained Mr Levitt.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added additional challenges to the daily work for veterinarians, as they incorporate social distancing requirements and increased use of personal protective equipment into their busy schedules – which have also been impacted by a shortage of veterinary staff and an increased demand for veterinary care.
“The pandemic has been an emotional rollercoaster for everyone - bringing unexpected change, uncertainty and instability in many areas of life. For vets, and other animal care workers, they've had to be even more flexible and agile than ever before - working as split teams, conducting consults in car parks and counselling pet owners through making the ultimate decision to farewell their pet, with added layers of safety and COVID processes. All this, while working longer hours, dealing with heightened emotions and increased pressure from clients, and spending more time away from friends and family,” said Mr Levitt.
Join the walk in Melbourne or Canberra
Flynn’s Walk is a registered charity with all money raised by the events they hold going towards raising awareness and increasing education in the pet owner community. The next Flynn’s Walk event is in Melbourne on Sunday, May 2nd between 9:00am and 1:00pm. A second event is scheduled in Canberra on Sunday, May 16th starting at 10am. Both events are free to attend and open to all.
“We'd love to see as many people from around Victoria and the ACT in attendance at these events! We want to be able to hold more walks, more often and encourage more conversations. Plus, we want to support the industry to enable safe and meaningful conversations about mental health - reducing the stigma that surrounds speaking up – which will go a long towards helping industry professionals feel safe to speak up when they are not okay.”
“Our pets are so important to us and are truly members of our families. Our wonderful vets are their primary caregivers and it is so important that we ensure they are looked after and looking after themselves. One of the major factors contributing to higher stress and burnout in the veterinary field is pressure from clients. We feel that if we can educate the community about the effect we can all have on a veterinarian’s day, week or month - however big or small, can truly be life-changing,” said Mr Levitt.
With the multitude of challenges facing the veterinary profession, veterinarians are encouraged to seek support early, and to know that it’s okay to not feel okay.
“We are so lucky in Australia to have many amazing mental health services available. Organisations like R U OK? and Beyond Blue have amazing free information online - not just for yourself, but information on how you can help others. Love Your Pet, Love Your Vet is an organisation established to provide tailored mental health care for veterinary professionals. We recommend contacting Lifeline 13 11 14, if you or anyone you know is experiencing a crisis. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, contact emergency services on 000,” said Mr Levitt.
To register to participate in a Flynn’s Walk event, or to donate to support the organisation’s work, visit: www.flynnswalk.com.au
For support contact: Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or the AVA's 24-hour counselling service on 1300 687 327.