First posted May 2017; reposting May 2021.
Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!
That statement seems a little ironic, doesn’t it? Well, it’s certainly not meant to be; the intention of this blog is to get people talking, asking, seeking, caring, loving, and understanding. You see, the topic of Mental Health is one that is near and dear to my heart as, like many others, I have personally been affected by friends and family members who have succumbed to depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. In fact, one thing that will continue to have an impact on the rest of my life and part of the inspiration behind this post is the day that I found out one of my colleagues had taken his own life during our second year of veterinary school. From that moment on, our entire class and school changed the way we viewed, discussed, and considered mental health issues (I still commend the way Mississippi State’s faculty, staff, and other students responded and conducted themselves toward our class during that time).
Sadly, in the veterinary profession, incidences such as this are becoming more and more common. But why? Veterinarians have the greatest job in the world, right? They get to “play” with puppies and kittens (well, in my case, bears and eagles) all day, right? How could they feel depressed? Well, I’m sure if you asked ten different veterinarians that question, you’d get ten different answers; however, perhaps a commonly stated answer would only consist of two words: compassion fatigue.
The Oxford Dictionary defines compassion fatigue as “indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.”
You can understand why veterinarians might experience this phenomenon, right? What other individuals might experience compassion fatigue? Hint: several people who come across this blog post might fit into this category. That’s right -- wildlife rehabilitators! How many of you have stayed up all night, driven for hours, and/or put other resources into countless animals only for all your time and effort to result in an unsuccessful outcome? It certainly happens, and it can leave you feeling hopeless. The important part, however, is how we pick ourselves up afterward. How we learn from those instances. How we talk about those instances with our friends and family. And most importantly, how we separate those instances from our everyday lives. The “work/life balance” concept may seem far-fetched for some of us, but it is so crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and mind! Someone once told me that “you cannot pour from an empty cup,” which is something that we should all strive to live by every day!
The point of this blog and, in my opinion, the point of Mental Health Awareness Month is to spread understanding and knowledge that depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental health issues are serious conditions that need attention. And to let the victims of mental health issues know that they are not alone! We all get down sometimes, but not everyone is able to get back up on their own. And that’s okay.
If you or someone you know is experiencing compassion fatigue, depression, suicidal thoughts, PTSD, etc. please visit this website and click on the “Find Help” tab.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Take care and remember to fill your own cup!
-- Dr. Peach
Editor's Note: Months ago, Dr. Peach gave the staff little cards with the reminder, "You cannot pour from an empty cup." It's encouraging to see how many staff member still have these cards hung around their desks.