Local vets denounce suicides within the profession | Regional News from Lehigh Valley

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. – At the Valley Central Veterinary Referral Center in Whitehall Township, staff are busy caring for patients.

Ask anyone in veterinary medicine and they’ll tell you they’re working to save lives.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll hear about the dark side of the profession.

“We had three colleagues who committed suicide in one week,” said Dr Ronald Hodges, of the referral center.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, suicide rates among veterinarians are nearly three to five times higher than in the general population. AMVA says a number of things contribute to the statistics, including the emotional paradox of loving animals and ending their lives.

“I had a case yesterday where the owner’s pet was diagnosed with cancer but his father died the same day we euthanized his pet.

Hodges says that on any given day a vet can euthanize multiple pets, and it’s especially difficult when the animal can be treated, but the owner can’t or won’t pay for it.

“It can be hard on your soul when you are accused of disliking animals because you charge for your services,” said Kristin Fisher, of the referral center.

Cyberbullying is another factor. Just google the name of any vet and chances are negative reviews will appear.

And if you add in student loan debt averaging $ 100,000, it can be overwhelming for some in a profession that views euthanasia as a way to alleviate suffering.

“It’s not a big leap to say, hey I’m in pain, I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, it could take away my pain and my pain,” said Brian Bourquin, with Not One More Vet, a public charity.

This pain was put in the spotlight of vets in 2014 after world-renowned dog trainer Sophia Yin took her own life.

“It was a shock to the entire veterinary community and so people were having a hard time figuring out where to get those feelings and emotions,” Bourquin said.

The Not One More Vet organization was established in memory of Yin, to promote mental well-being by providing support and resources to veterinarians.

Hodges says this is just one important part of an ongoing dialogue within his profession.

If you or someone you love is having difficulty, you can contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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