Not One More Vet (NOMV)

In 2014, a new Facebook group was started called Not One More Vet (NOMV) by a wonderful veterinarian named Nicole. She was pained by the death of Sophia Yin from mental illness. Nicole thought this Facebook page would be a good way for close veterinary friends to talk about the stresses that we go through and to hopefully make an impact, however small, in veterinary medicine. It could be a place to start changing the way we view mental illness and suicide as a profession. Even the CDC has noticed that veterinary medicine has an unusually high number of anxiety, depression, and suicide, to the point that the CDC has been working on figuring out why this is the case. There are many theories, including access to methods, frequent explanation and belief that euthanasia is often the best (or only) option, perfectionism, compassion fatigue, and many others.


I was lucky enough to be asked to join this group about 2 weeks after it began. I have made new friends and seen a change in my own mental health for the better. In August of 2016, I heard that there was a backlog of people trying to join the group, but it was becoming more and more difficult to verify that people were in fact veterinarians, so I saw a need and offered to help. The group of 4 admins (Nicole, Carrie, Jason, and David) jumped on the offer and the as more veterinarians were approved to join, the requests to join came in exponentially, we have added 2 additional admins (Nora and Leigh to help as our international contingency has grown dramatically). As of today (April 1, 2017), it is no joke, but the group has reached 11,400 members! Wow, is it a lot of work to keep track of everyone and see that when they cry out for help, we are there to give it to them.

Despite having so many veterinarians connected and doing a lot to help them, we have not been able to stop the suicides. We have stopped some of them, and multiple people have come to us to share their stories of coming back from the abyss of depression and the edge of suicide and surviving. Until we can reach them all, we are not done. For this reason, Nicole, Carrie, Jason, David, and I have started Not One More Vet (non-profit status pending). On that page, we have resources available for anyone in the midst of a mental health crisis. There is also a location on the web page for veterinarians to register to join the Facebook group, as well as links to Your Daily Dose, our self care blog, and ways to contact us for speaking engagements, donation information, or general questions.

A fellow veterinarian was given this “Veterinary Survival Kit” along with the mentioned items after speaking to a middle school class!

 

If you are a pet owner and appreciate your veterinarian, please let them know! Some days we go from a euthanasia to a new puppy appointment to a giving devastating news to a family to a sick animal that just needs a little extra help to get better. We do our best to be positive and support you. We may not be able to say it, but sometimes, we (and our support staff) need your support, too. A hug, a smile, a kind word, or even some chocolate or fruit can go a long way.

Are you a veterinarian or have a loved one that is a veterinarian that you think may need help? Please contact us. We would love to help and serve you!

When Will It End?

I remember my first thoughts of suicide were when I was in fourth grade. I did not have a particularly difficult childhood, there was no abuse or neglect. I may not have been popular or had a lot of friends, but I was generally a happy kid. I don’t remember why I had these thoughts. I do remember going for long walks. I would sing at the top of my voice in the middle of no where. I would cry to let out pain that I didn’t understand. I remember being depressed in high school and college. Not just the “I’m sad today” or “regular teenage angst,” but the black abyss with no light and no hope for the future. I would have trouble getting out of bed, but I would do it so no one would know that anything was wrong.

While in college, I finally discussed my problems with a doctor. I was diagnosed with moderate depression with generalized anxiety. I did not get any treatment at this time. I felt somewhat vindicated as when I had spoken with people prior (not medical professionals), I would be told, “Get over it. It is all in your head.” Now, I knew it was all in my head, but now I knew why. This explained why when someone was late, my brain went to one of two scenarios: 1. The person/people hated me and were not coming or 2. They were in a major accident and were on the side of the road bleeding to death. I am not sure which scenario was more difficult, although the second made me feel guilty for being angry that they were late while they were dead.

Fast forward to September 11, 2001, thousands of people did not go home to their families that day. This shook me to the core. I finally went for help. My first few years of veterinary school were split between school and seeing a psychologist. They wanted to start me on medication, but due to some personal issues with medication and suicide (another story that I may never share on a public forum), I couldn’t bring myself to take them. I knew that one of the potential side effects was to have enough energy to actually commit suicide. I couldn’t do that to my family and friends.

At the same time, studies were coming out about veterinarians having the highest suicide rate of any other professional. I don’t remember all of the numbers at the time, but it was significantly higher than the general population and other professionals. I petitioned the school to have a counselor on site – in the veterinary school building, not just on campus. I spoke with multiple people. I went into my final year, but no longer had the time to see the psychologist or to continue petitioning the school. When I came back to school after an externship out-of-town, I learned that another veterinary student committed suicide while I was gone. I was devastated. I felt guilty; that I should have been able to prevent this, despite only knowing the individual in passing. Since then a counselor has been placed in the veterinary school for students, staff, clients, anyone that needs the support.

I graduated from veterinary school over 9 years ago. Since then, I know many veterinarians that have committed suicide and many more that have attempted suicide. The problem has not been improving. There are more studies being done to figure out why the rates are so high, but there has not been a solution found. Hopefully, anything that is found will help not only the veterinary community, but also the general public. Mental illness, depression, suicide are all topics that get pushed under the rug until something happens to spotlight them.

Today, I learned that Dr. Sophia Yin, an amazing veterinarian, animal advocate, lecturer, and person died via suicide. I don’t know what her struggle was. I don’t know why she chose this path to death. I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know that the world lost a beautiful person. I do not condone the action of suicide, but I do understand why people can feel it is the only way out of a mind fraught with anguish. My heart, thoughts, and prayers, go out to the Yin family, friends, the veterinary community, and the world.

When on those walks many years ago, one Bible verse would repeat in my head. Isaiah 40:31, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will rise up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary; walk and not faint.” It was a long road, one I still sometimes struggle with, but when I wait upon the Lord, my strength is renewed. When I no longer try to hold the world in my control, I can let Him take control and life is not as hard. I have had people tell me this makes me weak. That I am less of a person. That I am stupid, illogical, and uneducated for believing in God. I will tell you, yes, I am weak, that is why I need Him. I am not worthy of His love, yet he grants it to me. I am not stupid. I am not illogical. I am not uneducated. I am honored to place my trust and faith in God.

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or that life is just too much to handle please, ask for help. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (in the USA) or find a professional that can help. You are not alone. There is a light, even if you can’t see it right now. It takes a long time to retrain your brain, it may require medication, but life can get better.

 

 

Words (written and spoken) Have Power

A couple weeks ago, I posted about bullies. Today, I ran across this post on “Veterinarians Behaving Badly.”

I am sickened by the cruelty of people at the moment. I know so many people that are struggling with depression in veterinary medicine. I know too many veterinarians and veterinary students that have considered suicide, and sadly too many that have succeeded.

I do not know Dr. Shirley Koshi, but I know my struggle of depression.

Please keep her family in your prayers.

Please keep your veterinarian in your prayers.

Please consider the consequences of words and deeds.

Remember that you cannot control someone else’s actions, but you can be a bastion of peace and comfort to all which may save a life.