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Working with pets every day can increase risk of depression

Seeing animals suffer on a daily basis can lead to burnout, compassion fatigue and mental health issues.

IANS|
Aug 13, 2019, 06.06 PM IST
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Euthanasing animals can cause significant guilt, which can further lead to anxiety and insomnia.
NEW YORK: While it might sound like fun to work around pets every day, veterinarians and people who volunteer at animal shelters face particular stressors that can place them at risk for depression, anxiety and even suicide, says a study.

"People who work or volunteer with animals are often drawn to it because they see it as a personal calling. However, they are faced with animal suffering and death on a routine basis, which can lead to burnout, compassion fatigue and mental health issues," said Angela K. Fournier from Bemidji State University in the US.

Veterinarians in particular are at high risk for death by suicide, according to a study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which found that from 1979 to 2015, veterinarians died by suicide between two to 3.5 times more often than the general US population.

While veterinarians who are dealing with mental health issues may exhibit symptoms common to all populations, such as sadness that interferes with daily activities or changes in appetite.

According to the researchers, increased medical errors, absenteeism, client complaints and spending too little or too much time at work are factors to watch for.

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Anil Kumble For the former Indian Test captain and coach, adopting just one animal wasn't cutting it, so he adopted three. The first was a King Cobra in 2010, when he was the vice-chairman of the Karnataka State Board for Wildlife. Kumble also adopted a giraffe named Lakshmi and an Asiatic lion named Shankara in the same year. He reportedly spends Rs 1.5 lakh on all three every year. He renews the adoption certificates for the animals, which bear the names of his kids – Aaruni, Mayas and Svasti.
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The research team believes there needs to be a paradigm shift in veterinary training to better prepare veterinarians not only for the animal-related aspects of their jobs, but the human elements as well.

The researchers looked at employees and volunteers in animal shelters or rescues and animal welfare and animal rights activists, who are at risk for compassion fatigue and psychological distress.

Over 2.4 million healthy cats and dogs are euthanised each year in the US, most often homeless animals in shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Shelter workers are then caught in a dilemma because they are charged with caring for an animal and they may ultimately end that animal's life.

Research suggests that this causes significant guilt, which can lead to depression, anxiety and insomnia, as well as greater family-work conflict and low job satisfaction.

"Animal welfare agents may also hear gruesome stories of animal abuse or witness the consequences firsthand when they are rehabilitating the animals, which can cause a lot of distress and lead to compassion fatigue," Fournier said.

The study was presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

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Forget jailbirds. Cats, squirrels and even bears have entered a life of crime that has resulted in them being arrested, tried and even jailed. Read on to find out about these law breaking furry friends.
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