World Mental Health Day

09 Oct 2019

October 10 is World Mental Health Day, raising public awareness of mental health issues around the globe through education and advocacy. Nearly three million Australians live with depression or anxiety every day. In recent years, we have begun to understand that vets are proportionally over-represented in that number.

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘suicide prevention’. “Getting people to talk about a subject that tends to be taboo and about which many hold mistaken and prejudiced ideas will help the community to learn about the risk factors so that they can identify and learn to address them,” says Dr Alberto Trimboli, President of the World Federation for Mental Health who organise the annual awareness event.

Research shows vets are four times more likely to take their own life than the general public, a rate double that of doctors, dentists and nurses. Far from being all puppies and kittens, Australia’s vets face long hours, staffing shortages, financial pressures, and challenges associated with modern pet parenting and the associated intense relationships, all of which take a mental toll.

The profession has rallied together to tackle the issue, with the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) leading the charge offering a 24-hour free telephone counselling service for vets and holding regular wellness events around the country.  The AVA also  has the ambition for  every practice in the country to have a  staff member qualified in Mental Health First Aid.

Oliver Liyou, a suicide survivor and regular speaker at the events, says that good progress is being made. “We’re starting to build an infrastructure that helps people learn to be aware {of poor mental health} and we’re beginning to change the culture of how we work.”

Veterinary mental health advocate, Brian McErlean agrees. “When we started it was all about suicide, not much fun to deal with but it had to be done. Now we’ve progressed to a more positive approach, which is recognising that good mental health is beneficial for all.”

World Mental Health Day can only help the good work being undertaken in the profession, encouraging everyone to look at mental health without stigma so more people to seek the help and support they deserve.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, you can call the following 24-hour counselling lines:

AVA Counselling Service on 1800 337 068
Lifeline on 13 11 14
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

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