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Professional Wellness: Break the Dam!

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Why wellness? Nearly 10 percent of veterinarians characterize themselves as experiencing severe psychological distress.

Why wellness? Nearly 17 percent of veterinarians have contemplated suicide since graduation.

Why wellness? How do you respond when confronted with a phone call from a veterinarian's spouse informing you the veterinarian is threatening suicide?

Why wellness? Does your practice have a drug testing policy?

Why wellness? Over 72 percent of survey respondents say they've worked with someone abusing substances.

Hypotheses abound regarding our profession experiencing far higher than average levels of psychological distress, depression, suicidal ideation and substance abuse. I challenge you: we need more than hypotheses, we need more than task forces; we need more than summits. Personally, I'm sick and tired of hearing of these woes affecting the profession. We have the knowledge; we have the resources. We must take action to assist those members of the veterinary profession suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.

What can be done? Educate yourself! Educate your colleagues! Can you recognize symptoms of psychological distress? How do you respond? What resources are at your disposal? Are your practice's controlled substances secure and records kept current? Does your practice have a substance testing policy in place? What resources can you offer the spouse of a veterinarian contemplating suicide?

Have you looked at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine's "Veterinary Wellness" website – http://veterinarywellness.colostate.edu?

Did you know you can access informative webinars sponsored by Pet Poison Helpline and AVMA Life – http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/veterinarians/webinars/avma-life-co-sponsored-webinars/?

Recognize the profession's paradox of extraordinary psychological distress and easy access to powerful substances. When will we do something about it? What's holding us back? Let's break the dam and implement resources already available! Break the dam and implement assistance programs! Break the dam and implement stringent drug control procedures! Break the dam and knock down stigmas associated with psychological distress!

It's time to end the suffering. It's time to end the stigmas. It's time to provide support to those afflicted with psychological distress and substance abuse, especially if related to profession stressors. Join me to Break the Dam!

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Presidents Message

Coming Soon! Professional Assistance Program for Wisconsin Veterinary Professionals

Over the past several years, the WVMA has become acutely aware of the increasing mental health and substance abuse stresses that our professionals are experiencing.  Survey studies by mental health experts have quantified the challenges facing some of our colleagues.  Articles in our press have made us aware of this issue. The stresses of veterinary school and practice can combine to create depression, anxiety, and even suicide for some of our colleagues.  

In a cooperative effort to provide additional resources for our profession, the WVMA worked with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and Governor Walker’s office to get authorization for the creation of a Professional Assistance Program for Veterinarians and CVTs included in the 2017-19 state biennial budget bill.  The program is funded with existing license fees and will be a much-needed resource for Wisconsin veterinary professionals who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. This is a major victory for veterinarians in Wisconsin.  The WVMA will be working with DATCP as this program is developed.  We extend our thanks to DATCP and the Governor’s Office for their recognition of this need for our profession and the commitment to creating this professional assistance program.

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