Working with animals who are suffering day in and day out will take its toll on anyone but there are some people that are more impacted by it than others. In particular, animal care workers – the individuals who work tirelessly to help animals overcome trauma and live to see another day.The ones that devote their lives to ensuring the wellbeing of animals and dedicate themselves to meeting the constant demand of animals in need. Yet, while these heroes are looking after animals all day long, who is looking after them?
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A recent study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, unearthed that animal rescue workers have one of the highest suicide rates in comparison to other workers. With every 5.3 in 1 million workers committing suicide, the only other professions that share that rate are police officers and firefighters. In addition to that, a mental health survey revealed that one in six veterinarians have contemplated suicide due to job related stress. So what is the epidemic behind all of this? It’s called ‘Compassion Fatigue’ and Charles Figely, Director of the Tulane Traumatology Institute reveals that it is, “Emotional exhaustion, caused by the stress of caring for traumatized or suffering animals or people.”
Compassion Fatigue is also defined as, ‘secondary traumatic stress disorder,’ which shares symptoms with PTSD. So if you or someone you know is an animal care worker, what should you know to combat compassion fatigue? According to individuals in the animal rescue field, one of the main lines of defence against it is to have a realistic outlook on your work. Whether you’re a volunteer in a shelter or a veterinarian, it is important to understand that not every case will be successful and sometimes there really is nothing you can do about it. It is also imperative that you have a strong support system around you and cam lean on other compassionate figures for help. Of course if talking to friends and family doesn’t help and you’re feeling the weight of despair or having suicidal thoughts please call the The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). There are a number of professionals ready to talk and help you through this rough time. To all the animal care workers, thank you for all of the selfless and compassionate work that you do.