Dr. Melanie Goble
The past month has been a painful one for the veterinary community. There have been many deaths, some to suicide, some to cancer, some to other illnesses and accidents. My heart breaks for the families and friends of each of these veterinarians, veterinary students, technicians, and assistants.
I have spoken with family and friends of those lost. I have been asked to critique suicide awareness content. I am happy to do all of these things if they will help bring some measure of peace or understanding to others.
One of the things that was brought sharply to my attention was the wording that many people use “committed suicide.”
The term committed, indicates that it is a crime that was chosen. What people often fail to remember is that suicide is the culmination of disease of the mind. The mind is not healthy when this choice is made. Just as a body eventually “gives up” after a chronic illness, or even old age, the mind gives up and death by suicide is the outcome of that disease. We don’t say someone committed cancer or heart attack. We say they died from cancer or a heart attack. We recognize the underlying disease. Even when a disease is the result of life choices, such as smoking, we don’t say they committed suicide. They didn’t want to develop lung or throat cancer from smoking. They likely didn’t want to die if they were in their “right mind.” The same is true for those with mental health conditions. They do not want to have a mental health disease. In their “right mind,” they likely didn’t really even want to die, but they saw no other option.
Just as we fight to treat and end cancer, we fight to stop the epidemics of smoking and alcoholism, we also must fight to help those with mental health diseases. We must fight to provide them with the assistance they need to flourish rather than drown. We must try to extend them the honor of remembering the wonderful people they were while alive, recognizing that their fight was against a disease and they lost. They did not commit a crime, the succumbed to their disease.
If you are struggling with the pain of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, you are not alone. Please continue the fight. If you are a veterinarian, or have lost a veterinarian that was close to you, Not One More Vet is here for you. If you are struggling in the USA, please reach out to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or outside of the USA there is a list of international resources at https://www.nomv.org/support-resources.html.
Dr. Carrie Jurney (DACVIM Neurology)
I am a bit allergic to anything that sounds like “woo”. I don’t respond well when someone tells me that meditation will ground me- ground me to what? My feet and gravity seem to handle that fine already. But my analytic doctor brain really loves a good peer reviewed article, and I’m constantly on the hunt for tools that I can use to decrease burnout, increase resilency and decrease my ever present anxiety. So articles like this one (link;: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772979/) that talk about mindfulness as a tool for reducing anxiety are always of interest to me. I even read a study recently that shows that the practice of mindfulness can increase the density of your brain (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/)- and what sort of neurologist would I be if I didn’t want to increase my brain density.
It’s becoming clear that I need to get over myself and give mindfulness meditation a real try. But lord, the thought of sitting still for 30 minutes makes me twitch. I’m going to try to build the habit first, and gradually increase my time. I downloaded the Headspace app on my phone, and daily for the last ten days I’ve been doing the absolute shortest meditation available. 3 minutes. That’s it. Today, I’m going to try to up the ante and do a 5 minute meditation. I don’t really have an endpoint time goal in mind yet, but studies tend to recommend somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes a day. For now though, I’m building the habit, so the goal is to do some meditation, no matter how brief, every single day. I’ve even invited the NOMV community to do it with me- after all I’m going to be way more accountable if 16,000 of my closest friends are doing it too.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.