Veterinary careers are generally seen as a rewarding experience, but statistics reveal the suicide rate for veterinarians is almost four times higher than the general population. Psychologist Dr Nadine Hamilton has spent the last ten years researching why the mental well-being of vets has become so compromised and what can be done about it.

She is a graduate from the University of Southern Queensland’s Doctor of Education and currently enrolled in the University’s Doctor of Philosophy. “The effects of working long hours, performing euthanasia on animals, emotional pressure, financial issues, unrealistic expectations, and dealing with distressed clients places considerable stress on both the vet themselves and their families at home,” Hamilton said. “Failure to cope with such stress upsets mental well-being and can lead to serious emotional, physical, and behavioural issues. For some, it leads to death.”

In her recently published book Coping with Stress and Burnout as a Veterinarian, Hamilton examined the problem and the science that can be used to tackle it head-on. “If we are to reduce this suffering we need to find out what hinders a vet’s well-being and use targeted solutions that work,” she said. “That will involve us drawing from the fields of positive psychology, acceptance and commitment therapy, career construction theory, and resiliency studies.” Hamilton’s intervention program is primarily focused on stress management, emphasising organisational skills, and goal setting.

Hamilton is the founder of the charity Love Your Pet Love Your Vet, and previously developed the Coping and Well-being Program for Veterinary Professionals; an evidence-based psycho-educational intervention to educate vets on how to develop protective attitudes, enhance well-being, and increase their coping skills.

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