Today we lost another veterinarian to suicide.
Before anyone regurgitates the old "they're just in it for the money" or "they're trying to rip us off", I hope we can all take a moment to breathe, to think, to appreciate.
Vets spend years in school, studying not just one or two species, but many. They may assess and treat your dog in one appointment, a cat in the next appointment, a guinea pig, a rabbit, a ferret, a rabbit, a goldfish, a horse, or a cow, in another. They need to have the species-appropriate information on the top of their heads at all times. Which meds work for which species but could kill another species? Which symptoms lead to which disease in one species but varies in another? What is "normal" for the species in front of them and abnormal for another?
Vets love animals, which is why they become vets. No one goes into vet school thinking "I'm going to make millions!". In fact, many vets you see are still paying off their student loans with interest. You can ask any vet who owns a clinic how many thousands of dollars it costs DAILY to run a clinic (in Toronto especially because our overhead is so high).
Vets often take home abandoned animals whose previous guardians could not pay for the treatment and opt for euthanasia or surrender instead. Vets often pay for those services so that those pets can stay in their homes.
But they don't talk about this. They don't talk about it because they're too busy saving lives. The lives that mean the world to US. They're too busy feeling burned out, sad, misunderstood, tired, and under-appreciated. They're too busy making an effort in self-care in order to feel uplifted and put the sadness and grief they carry daily into the furthest corner of their minds because they know the realities of compassion fatigue all too well.
So before you say "they're in it for the money" or "they're trying to rip us off", stop yourself and instead say "thank you" to your vet. Thank you for caring so deeply for my pet, for offering the solutions that you yourself would take if you were in my shoes. Thank you for staying late, for seeing me on such short notice. Thank you for smiling even though you're exhausted. Thank you for keeping my pet healthy and pain-free. Thank you for helping me come to the right decision (for me) without judgement. Thank you for helping me help my pet to pass peacefully and painlessly. Thank you for crying with me when my heart is breaking with grief. Thank you for helping me carry my sorrow long after I've left your clinic.
To lose a vet to suicide simply breaks my heart. To lose anyone to suicide is a tragedy like no other. Reach out and thank your vet because under those scrubs is one of the kindest, most compassionate hearts you'll ever meet.