The grieving family of a young vet who tragically committed suicide has spoken out about the fact that those in the profession are four times more likely to die by suicide.
Gary and Kate Putland said two of the main reasons for the tragic statistic are vets’ brutal abuse at the hands of pet owners and the trauma they face from putting down animals they can’t save.
Their daughter Sophie Putland died in September 2021 at the age of 33 by suicide while working in Melbourne.
She had been brutally abused by an angry pet owner leading up to her sudden death.
“She was a perfectionist, always trying to do the best and yet people yelled at her for no real reason,” Mr. Putland told The Project.
Veterinarian Sophie Putland died by suicide in September 2021 while working in Melbourne after being brutally beaten by an angry pet owner
Ms Putland said she and her husband do not blame anyone for their daughter’s death, but want young people entering the industry to be safe and better looked after.
“Please, when you go in you will see the vet who will smile at you kindly, but you don’t know what they are feeling and what they are going through,” Ms Putland said.
Studies have shown that veterinarians have a significantly higher risk of suicide than the general population, according to the Australian Veterinarian Society.
The study, which analyzed the deaths of vets in Western Australia and Victoria, found there were four times as many vets as the national average, with one vet taking his own life every 12 weeks.
Psychologist Nadine Hamilton said there are a number of factors contributing to the vet industry’s suicide rates, including abuse by pet owners, financial hardship, compassion fatigue and having to euthanize animals.
“There are quite a few factors that contribute, such as dealing with difficult people who come in and have unrealistic expectations,” Ms Hamilton said.
‘There are (also) many financial problems, there can be a lot of pity fatigue and unfortunately also the performance of euthanasia.
“People go in stressed, they can be really stressed if it’s a trauma situation or if their pet was hit by a car or something is wrong. They may not realize that their stress is reflected in their behaviour.’
Sophie’s parents, Gary and Kate Putland (pictured together), have spoken for the first time urging pet owners to be kind to their vets. The couple launched a campaign to honor their daughter’s legacy and help reduce the shocking vet suicide rate
Sophie’s parents launched the national campaign ‘We’re Only Human’ on Sunday to honor their daughter’s legacy and end the shocking suicide rate among veterinarians.
The campaign encourages pet and animal owners to be kind and respectful and to understand the enormous pressures that affect veterinary staff.
“Sophie saw that the industry needed change. What we’ve tried to do is honor our beautiful daughter,” Mr Putland said.
In the wake of Sophie’s death, loved ones set up a GoFundMe page for her family that raised nearly $50,000.
The money raised was used to set up the Sophie’s Legacy website and the We’re Only Human campaign.
Sophie’s brothers Tom and Oliver developed the Sophie’s Legacy website, which the family used to survey more than 600 veterinary workers about the pressures they face.
The survey found that client abuse was the top issue, with 67 percent claiming it affected their mental health.
“The biggest problem identified by the investigation was customer abuse – with pet owners lashing out at staff, particularly over vet bills,” Putland writes on the website.
“Virtually every person surveyed said it was the number one issue that really affected their mental health.
Psychologists argue that factors such as mistreatment by pet owners, financial hardship, compassion fatigue and having to euthanize animals contribute to the suicide rate in the veterinary industry (photo, Sophie Putland)
Studies show vets are four times more likely than the national average to commit suicide, with one vet committing suicide every 12 weeks (photo, Sophie Putland)
“These are all things that Sophie has been through — and that last, really nasty abuse she tolerated just sent her, we believe, over the edge.”
In partnership with Small Animal Specialist Hospital, thousands of posters will be displayed in veterinary clinics across the country during the campaign.
The posters feature SASH vet Doctor Lauren Bielby caring for a dog with the headline “We’re Only Human.”
The posters feature a QR code that pet owners must scan to pledge to treat staff with respect.