Banfield Pet Hospital Unveils Suicide Prevention Training for Veterinary Professionals

We love our pets, and it’s proven that they make our lives better. From affection to companionship to unconditional love, life with a pet also has a positive impact on our health and well-being.

Results from nationally representative market research conducted by Edelman Intelligence on behalf of HABRI and Mars Petcare reinforce the social bond between humans and pets. Roughly one in four (26%) pet owners got a pet because it is good for their mental health, and among respondents age 55 and older, that percentage more than doubles (55%).

When our pets need medical attention, we know they are in the best hands with veterinary professionals. Veterinarians aim to provide top-notch, compassionate care despite having patients that can’t tell them what’s wrong. And sometimes, things are very wrong with a pet, which means veterinarians regularly have difficult financial, end-of-life, and other pet-care related discussions with pet owners. Such conversations are particularly hard when an injury or illness is treatable but an owner can’t afford surgeries or medications.

This stark reality, combined with mounting student loan debt averages, takes its toll on more than 70,000 veterinarians in the United States. Compounded, these and other challenges have led to disproportionately high suicide rates among veterinarians — 1 in 6  has considered or attempted suicide according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, according to a 2018 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 30 years of data shows veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than members of the general population.

That’s why Banfield Pet Hospital knew it was time to take action. To achieve our purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS, we need to make a better world for the people who care for them. Banfield started developing wellness programs for its associates in 2017, and on September 12 at its 18th annual Pet Healthcare Industry Summit in Portland, OR, announced a new suicide prevention training. 

“Assess, Support, Know” (ASK) is a first-of-its-kind training designed specifically for veterinary professionals to help them recognize emotional distress and suicidal thoughts in themselves and others. 

Underscoring the 1-in-6 statistic, by January 6, 2020 Banfield committed to doing the following:

  • Close its schedules for more than 1,000 hospitals practice-wide to offer a two-hour interactive mental health and wellbeing training for its more than 19,000 hospital associates. 
  • Make the training available to all veterinary professionals as a free online resource.
  • Share the training with all U.S. veterinary colleges as a free resource for their students. 

“If we can teach people what it looks like when someone is in emotional distress, and we can teach them how to break through and connect with that person emotionally and compassionately and lead them to professional help, I know we will help,” Lisa Brown-Stewart, Program Manager, Mental Health and Wellbeing at Banfield Pet Hospital, told TIME magazine. “It’s not all puppies and kittens and wonderful experiences. There’s a lot of pain involved.”

Veterinary professionals work hard every day to treat, nurture and care for our pets. It’s our responsibility to work diligently to help them, too. 

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