AVMA Launches Programs for Veterinary Wellness and Well-Being

In an effort to protect the health and welfare of its members, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has launched two new mental wellness initiatives.

Joined by their insurance trusts, AVMA LIFE and AVMA PLIT, the AVMA initiated a pilot program to train individuals to identify and assist those who might be considering suicide. The program is free of charge to 4,000 veterinarians and 1,000 veterinary students. Cost considerations restrict the number of participants at this time, but the program may be expanded in the future.

In addition to the training, a new LinkedIn community offers all veterinarians the opportunity to connect with thought leaders in the mental health profession and discuss a wide range of topics related to wellness and well-being.

"AVMA is very much a family," said AVMA President Dr. Tom Meyer. "When a recent study reported that one in six U.S. veterinarians has contemplated suicide, we needed to act. As veterinarians we are saving the lives of our patients every day. We need to empower our member veterinarians with knowledge that might save a colleague's life."

Training for veterinarians
Called QPR—an acronym that stands for "Question, Persuade, Refer"—gatekeeper training teaches people without professional mental health backgrounds to:

  • Recognize the signs that someone may be considering suicide
  • Establish a dialogue with the person
  • Guide the person to seek professional help

The QPR Institute, which has provided gatekeeper training to more than 1 million people since 1999, likens their gatekeeper training to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich maneuver. Gatekeeper training is not a substitute for professional assistance, but it can be a critical tool to save lives - and it's something that any veterinary professional can learn to do.

According to the Surgeon General's National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (2001), individuals positioned to recognize a crisis and the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide can interrupt the crisis and help that person receive proper care. QPR training is considered an emergency health intervention and may be considered part of the chain of survival designed to interrupt the crisis.

"We selected QPR Institute's program because it is evidence based, heavily tested and peer reviewed," said Dr. Meyer. "It meets the requirements needed to be listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Practices and Policies. As scientists ourselves, we know that evidenced-based, peer-reviewed and effective programs are very important factors to our members."

Join the community: Veterinary Wellness and Well-being
All AVMA and SAVMA members are invited to join a new LinkedIn community, AVMA Veterinary Wellness and Well-being. Thought leaders from the mental health profession will participate in discussions as well as provide knowledge, support and resources on topics related to well-being and tactics for dealing with stress.

These programs are the latest addition to other AVMA health and wellness resources such as combatting compassion fatigue, managing stress, improving financial planning, and setting up a wellness program.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


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