By Dr. Abby Whiting, cyberbully survivor
Recent events in our on line and globalized community have given me some food for thought. As many already know there was a case of a sick animal in St. Louis Missouri that resulted in some misinformation, cyberbullying, and threats of violence against particular veterinarians and their staff. I work at the targeted clinic and I was in the thick of it. This was the second time cyberbullies have hit me straight in the gut. I cannot thank NOMV enough for the support and resources provided to me and the staff.
Until you yourself have lived through a true cyberbullying attack or siege on your business, you cannot possibly fully comprehend the emotional damage and cost to the practice. As a profession that has a higher than usual rate of suicide, stress, anxiety, depression etc this needs to concern us, all of us. We are a group of compassionate givers, people who give their entire lives for the betterment of humans and their animals. To have such bile and hatred directed at us, shakes us to the core. It can write on the slate of innocent souls and change who we are, how we practice, and how we interact with the world. It can and has contributed to suicides in our profession.
This is not the only time cyberbullies have targeted veterinary medicine, and it will not be the last…but this time something was different. This time I suspect we as a community of veterinarians are somehow different, stronger, more committed to each other and our futures than ever before.
As a result of the unfortunate set of circumstances I saw veterinarians from all around the globe stand together in unity. I saw cards of support and on line words of wisdom from the US, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Canada and more. I saw a small community of local veterinarians band together in complete solidarity: the “We are ALLONE” motto came to life before my eyes. These practices pooled resources, and spoke in a single voice. There was no me, it was WE. The staff at the affected practices banded together and with woven arms held each other up. Outreach from across the world poured in, almost as though all veterinarians knew something powerful was about to happen. I saw, I heard, I felt all of us declare our worthiness.
For the first time in cyberbullying history an organization in veterinary medicine stood up and spoke. They spoke in a single clear loud voice. They spoke with love, compassion, and truth. It was such an honor to see us stand up to the emotional renegades. The Missouri Veterinary Medical Association laid the ground work for development of more resources for cyberbullying attacks. They were brave enough to speak. Years from now when we look at cases of cyberbullying we will refer to the MVMA’s statement this February. Their words and their courage are a catalyst for positive change in our profession. Through all of this I have seen new leaders take shape, and I can tell you the future is bright! We are no longer afraid. These bullies will not control us through fear and emotional extortion.
Statement from the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association:
“The MVMA has reviewed the facts of the recent events in the St. Louis area involving Veterinary Specialty Services and St. Louis Animal Control. We have spoken to the parties involved, and with many of you, our members.
The laws of the state of Missouri, the county of St. Louis, and the Missouri Veterinary Practice Act were all followed. We stand behind the actions of the veterinarians and veterinary team members involved and will continue to support them.
We condemn the social media cyberbullying and backlash that has and continues, to take place.
MVMA supports our veterinarians and veterinary teams, and their important role. They give their hearts and their expertise in service to the public every day.
If you have questions or concerns on this matter, you may email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Veterinarians and team members: we encourage you to visit the AVMA’s Cyberbullying Toolkit for resources. Again, know that the MVMA supports you. “
When I saw the collection of cards and supportive letters and gifts I cried, but when I read the MVMA statement I cried again. I am so excited for our profession. I am beyond grateful to be a part of a state VMA with this level of commitment and grace. We are stronger together !
I want to share a great story... recently at the Missouri VMA annual meeting we offered a QPR class. 31 brave individuals got QPR ( Question, Persuade, Refer) certified to help identify and intervene in order to aid in suicide prevention. I'm honored to be a part of a state VMA who is so progressive. A 2016 study of all state VMA executive boards indicated only 37% of them were aware mental wellness and suicide was a problem in the profession.
In class there was a retired veterinarian sitting quietly in the back...during our small group role play practice the QPR instructor, a NOMV native!, Noticed he was struggling. She intervened...to find out his wife had committed suicide 2 years ago to the day. Since that time he noted he has really been lost and alone. When I say she saved a life in the lecture...she did. She helped him exchange numbers with her and another recently retired vet and made him commit to calling them and allowing her to help him get into therapy for himself. It was powerful...it was inspired. I see these little touch points of light in our community every day. Checking in on a friend or colleague, a quick text, a message from a stranger on line…reigniting the tiny spark of light chases out the darkness.
NOMV Nation you are changing our profession for the better.
If you are not yet QPR Certified it is free for AVMA members on line.
Thank you Dr. Marcy Hammerle for being g a QPR Gatekeeper.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.