25.6% of Australian veterinarians suffer depression ranging from mild to extremely severe. 3.9% are classified as being extremely severe which is twice the number in that category for the Australian population.
Depression is defined as a state of sadness and melancholy of at least three months duration. It is normal for these states to occur for varying periods in most peoples lives but are not lasting. Thoughts characteristic of depression are of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness relating to the self and pervasive across the spectrum of life. Contributing to these thoughts can be a belief that ones life’s goals, ambitions and aspirations will not be met. Depression can be precipitated by the loss of valued individual or possession. Along with the negative affect apathy and lethargy also become apparent.
The important feature of depression, in the absence of another psychological condition, is that it can be successfully overcome. Depending on the level of depression treatment recommendations vary but the evidence is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) provides prolonged relief in long term followup studies. The reason for the positive outcome of CBT is simply thoughts and beliefs are challenged and modified to better reflect the real situation. As a consequence emotions also change. Cases of severe depression may be prescribed antidepressants but these are now only recommended for short term use and cognitive behaviour therapy is also vital during this stage. Mild and early less severe depression can be managed by changing lifestyle to include regular exercise and developing the new behavioural skills. Lifestyle changes can include regular exercise, learning to relax, expressing gratitude, keeping a good events and a gratitude diary, developing a hobby, being involved in community groups and volunteering your time to those groups. A skill to develop is concentrate on the present task and ignore thoughts of the past or what may occur in the future (be present orientated).
The high percentages of depression noted can be partially explained by the levels of workplace stress that veterinarians experience. In the case of the effort-reward imbalance model if experienced contributes to a 1.5 fold increase in depressive disorders. On the other hand the job strain model of high demands and low control has been demonstrated to precipitate clinical depression. From this perspective managing workplace stress will have a positive impact on reducing depression in veterinarians.
A practice management change recognizing employee contributions has a positive psychological impact on well.being.
YourVisionYourLife seminar/workshops facilitated by Vetlifeaustralia are based on cognitive behaviour theory. To register your interest or more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.