Mental Health and Wellness in the Veterinary Profession

When someone asks me, “What do you do?” and I tell them I’m a small animal veterinarian, their eyes brighten.  Then they proceed to tell me their favourite story about their pet.  I’m grateful that the public perception of veterinarians is so positive.

But underneath that happy veneer, many of my colleagues are suffering, often in silence.   I know because I’ve had my share of it.  This was confirmed when I attended the 2017 AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and the 2015 Veterinary Wellness and Social Work Summit, read about it in an article by Dr. Debbie Stoewen, saw it posted in social media on Facebook sites like “Not One More Vet”, and discussed it at Mindfulness Meditation Retreats led by VIN’s Dr. Michele Gaspar.

Today is Bell’s “Let’s Talk” day, where the aim is to use social media and texting to increase the awareness of mental health & wellness.  A big part of it is decreasing the stigma of even mentioning it’s happening.  It’s a difficult subject but bringing it out in the open makes it easier to seek support when needed.

Although talk and awareness is good, I’m glad to be a part of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association 2017 Annual Conference, where the program includes wellness events.  It will be our second year, sponsored by Merial.  There’s yoga every morning with Denise Gilbert-Jeanes, RVT, RYT.  I’ll be leading Midday Mindfulness Meditation (breath-focused sitting, 15 minutes, in a chair) and evening Restorative yoga.  Staying well mentally requires to tools to do so and I hope that the veterinarians attending the conference take the chance to learn about this, just like they’re learning how to become better at their medical and business skills.

The Ontario Veterinary College is also helping the students address wellness by creating a one week elective course, which will include a yoga session.  Kudos to Dr. Colleen Best and her colleagues for developing this program and inviting me to teach yoga.  As someone who spends a lot of time with the thoughts in her head, getting in touch with my body has been a work-in-progress.  I’m a little better at it than I was in vet school but it requires regular attention to body sensations and breath, at work and at home.  My body is usually aware of my reactions to situations, before I can even think it!

So help me out today and share this post on Facebook, Twitter or by texting, using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.  It makes a difference!

Mindfulness Meditation at OVC

My life decisions over the last five years are taking me places I never expected to go.  Introducing mindfulness meditation to the students at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is definitely one of those.

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2014 Mindfulness Meditation Retreat

Before I knew it, the weekend I’d been anticipating for so long had finally arrived.  I was on a plane to Chicago for the 2014 Mindfulness Meditation Retreat, organized by Michele Gaspar, to see old friends and meet some new ones.

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A note to my veterinary colleagues

I thought of you today.

Whether you are still in veterinary college, out in private practice, working in academia or industry, I offer the following to you.

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Yoga for veterinarians

It finally happened.

I had dreamed but never thought I’d be able to teach yoga on VIN (Veterinary Information Network).  I just finished presenting an on-line course to 80+ veterinarians (with more that will view the recording later).  My motto is I’m just a small animal vet, living her yoga and still very much a work in progress.  I wanted to show others how they could do it too.

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2013 Mindfulness Retreat

I’d forgotten my iPhone in the front seat of the truck, which meant my husband had to turn around and drop it off to me at the train station.  As he passed me the phone, he said “You’re going to work on your mindfulness this weekend, right?”.  Yeah.

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I’m hooked on the Firepole Marketing Scavenger Hunt

If you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter this past week, you’re probably wondering if someone hacked my account.  All’s good.  It happens that I’m participating in the first ever Firepole Marketing On-line Scavenger Hunt.

What’s that, you say?

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I’m published!

Today’s the official launch date of the book “Animal Companions, Animal Doctors, Animal People“.  It’s to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Ontario Veterinary College, my alma mater.  And I’m proud to say that I wrote one of the essays in the book!  My contribution is called “Yoga Lessons from My Dog”.

The anthology is available for order on Amazon and at independent bookstores like the “Bookshelf“, where they’re holding the book reading tonight.

Hope that you get a chance to read the book!  (Would make a great Father’s Day gift for your animal-loving Dad…I know that’s what I’m gonna do.)