Why regional vets are feeling the pressure
ISOLATION and public misconception are two of the biggest issues leading to deteriorating mental health of regional vets.
Australian vets are in an "extreme group” of mental health sufferers with vets up to four times more likely to fall victim to suicide, Australian Veterinary Association Benevolent Fund trustee Brian McErlean said.
"It's probably higher than that, that is just what is on record,” Dr McErlean said.
He believed awareness, education and change were the ways forward.
"We have to change the culture, the way we work, the way we treat each other,” he said.
Local vet and fund treasurer Louisa Poutsma almost gave up the profession due to the intense stress and long hours it required.
"Wages are low, I work easily 12 hours a day, I work by myself in my own practice, and I'm always on call, Dr Poutsma said.
Rural and regional areas were struggling to find employees willing to take on the extra load, she said.
"Regional areas can't offer the same amount of money as they can in the bigger cities, and people don't necessarily want to go to regional areas,” she said.
Understaffed clinics and expectations to cover a vast area added to Dr Poutsma's stresses.
"If you're a vet that does on- call work, it's really difficult to have a normal social life,” she said.
Dr Poutsma said more public awareness would go a long way in helping the industry.
She has had several clients manipulate her into helping their pet without paying.
She said vets often found themselves caught between helping an animal and looking after their own business.
"People don't understand that it's going to cost you, because you have to cover all the expenses of running a practice, the time you put in, and work that is done,” Dr Poutsma said.