A confidential charity dedicated to helping vets in crisis has revealed a near tripling of annual contacts to its anonymous helpline over the past three years.

woman on phone
Vetlife has received more than 660 calls for help by email and telephone in the past 12 months alone. Image: ASP Inc / fotolia.

The Vetlife organisation has recorded almost 30,000 visits to its website over that time and, in the past 12 months alone, has received more than 660 calls for help by email and telephone, with mental well-being and financial problems being the two main issues.

In the past year, the independent body – run mainly by trained, but unpaid, veterinary volunteers – has also seen 42 new enquiries for financial assistance and 64 additional health support cases, taking the health care support caseload to above 200.

Combination of factors

Vetlife president Geoff Little admitted the figures were “worrying”. He said he did not know whether it was a case of increasing pressure on modern vets resulting in more calls for help, or if vets were now simply more willing to speak out and seek assistance.

Dr Little suggested, from his own experience, it was probably a combination of factors.

He said: “I think certain concerns have always been there, but, in the past, it may be people didn’t perceive it was correct to share their thoughts. I think the fact we have now got better ways of allowing those people to remain anonymous, in terms of sharing their thoughts, is a good thing.

“We’re seeing an increasing number [of enquiries], but we’re also seeing an increased ability for those people to share their concerns with others.”

Previously ‘bottled up’

Helpline numberDr Little said, although it was hard to prove, he felt “greater stress” existed among modern vets, along with greater expectations from the public.

He said: “I think the kind of people who become vets are ‘A-type’ people who put a lot of pressure on themselves and, at the same time, have pressure from the outside. In the past, people have kept those pressures bottled up.

“There may not be solutions to all these problems, but the fact people can now feel more comfortable in sharing them has got to be a benefit.”

  • Read the full story in the 31 October issue of Veterinary Times.
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