The grieving family of a young veterinarian who tragically took her own life have spoken out about how 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 the brutal abuse vets cop at the hands of pet owners and the trauma they face putting down animals they can’t save.
Their daughter Sophie Putland died aged 33 by suicide in September 2021 while working in Melbourne.
She had received relentless abuse from an angry pet owner in the lead up to her sudden death.
‘She was a perfectionist, always trying to do the best thing and yet people would be yelling 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 receiving relentless abuse from 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 see the vet who will be pleasantly smiling at you but you do not know underneath what they’re feeling and what they’re going through,’ Mrs Putland said.
Studies have found veterinarians are at a significantly higher risk of suicide than the general population, according to the Australian Veterinarian Society.
The study, which analysed the deaths of veterinarians in Western Australia and Victoria showed vets were four times the national average , with one vet taking their life every 12 weeks.
Psychologist Nadine Hamilton said there are a number of factors which contribute to suicide rates in the veterinarian industry including abuse from pet owners, financial issues, compassion fatigue and having to euthanise animals.
‘There are quite a number of contributing factors such as dealing with difficult people that may come in and have unrealistic expectations,’ Ms Hamilton said.
‘There are (also) a lot of financial issues, there can be a lot of compassion fatigue and also sadly performing euthanasia.
‘People are going in there stressed, they might be really stressed if it’s a trauma situation or their pet has been hit by a car or there’s something wrong. They may not realise that their stress is transferring into their behaviour.’
Sophie’s parents, Gary and Kate Putland (pictured together), have spoken for the first time urging pet owners be kind to their vets. The pair launched a campaign to honour their daughter’s legacy and help stem the shocking suicide rate among veterinarians
Sophie’s parents launched the national campaign ‘We’re Only Human’ on Sunday to honour their daughter’s legacy and help stem the shocking suicide rate among veterinarians.
The campaign encourages pet and animal owners to be kind and respectful and to understand the massive pressures impacting veterinary staff.
‘Sophie could see that the industry needed change. What we have been trying to do is honour our beautiful daughter,’ Mr Putland said.
In the wake of Sophie’s death, loved ones set up a GoFundMe Page for her family that has raised almost $50,000.
The funds raised were used to establish the Sophie’s Legacy website and 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 staff about the pressures they face.
The survey revealed client abuse was the number one issue, with 67 per cent claiming it affected their mental health.
‘The biggest issue the survey revealed was client abuse – where animal owners lash out at staff, especially over vet bills,’ Mr Putland writes on the website.
‘Pretty much every person surveyed said this was the number one issue that really affected their mental health.
Psychologists claim factors such as abuse from pet owners, financial issues, compassion fatigue and having to euthanise animals contribute to the suicide rate in the veterinarian industry (pictured, Sophie Putland)
Studies show vets are four times more likely than the national average to take their own lives, with one vet taking their life every 12 weeks (pictured, Sophie Putland)
‘These are all things that Sophie experienced – and that final, really nasty abuse she copped, we believe, just sent her over the edge.’
In partnership with the Small Animal Specialist Hospital, the campaign see thousands of posters displayed in veterinary clinics across the nation.
The posters will feature SASH veterinarian Doctor Lauren Bielby caring for a dog with the headline ‘We’re Only Human’.
The posters will include a QR code, which pet owners are asked to scan to pledge that they will treat staff with respect.