Burnt out match
Image ©iStock.com/mikdam

This is a different blog to usual. It involves mental health, and all I am going to ask you to do is “read up” on this subject.

I don’t think you’re in this profession very long before you come in to contact with a colleague who has “burned out”. Have a think, though, and be honest: if you’re told someone has “burned out”, what do you think of?

Early on in my life I viewed someone like that with disdain as though they were a lesser vet – a lesser person, maybe. That is not so now. That ignorant and prejudiced attitude of mine had no basis and has been expunged.

Burning out is not a lack of care or commitment. Quite the opposite; I would suggest it is that victims care or cared too much.

The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (commonly seen as a catalogue of recognised psychiatric disorders) does not mention it, but it is recognised by the World Health Organisation in the 10th revision of its International Classification of Diseases manual (ICD-10).

Type “burn out” in to Google and there are 468 million results (and rising). All but one entry in the first few pages of results concern psychiatric or occupational burn out.

When I peruse the RCVS’s disciplinary proceedings – particularly cases more than a couple of years ago – I am struck with the thought that the accused (for it seems relatively unusual for someone to be exonerated) could have burned out, and that started a slippery slope of losing their caring attitude, animals suffering, and ending up in London.

This profession is woeful at taking care of itself. My experience of practices managing employees having difficulties is of them just being “asked to resign” rather than tackling the problems causing this. Vets themselves are awful at taking care of themselves or acknowledging their humanity.

So a brief blog, but one I will end by saying: read up on it from a mixture of authorities. Personally, I would start with Wikipedia and go from there.

If you recognise the symptoms get along to your GP and ask their opinion. That’s what they are there for. It could keep you from losing your caring edge.

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