I am constantly reminded that the veterinary profession is suffering from the horrific epidemic of suicide. More than any other industry on our planet. Over the last two decades of consulting veterinarians and their teams, I have interviewed many people who are deeply hurting. Not only has it been painful to see so many of my colleagues struggling, I have so much empathy for each and every person I have had the honor to meet and have trusted me enough to share their personal stories of frustration, struggle, and despair. It’s the reason I dedicated my career to help veterinarians and their teams. No one should have to suffer as much as they do to care for animals.
The longer I live and the more people I encounter, I have come to realize that most people have experienced dysfunction and tragedy in their lives. I can say with absolute certainty, suicide is not the answer to relieving a person’s pain.
I know this because I am a victim of suicide. When I was 11, my mother divorced my father. She ended up marrying a veterinarian. Before I turned 13, both my brother and my father committed suicide within a three-week time period.
As much pain, hopelessness, and despair my brother and father must have felt when they chose to end their lives, it pales in comparison to the pain their actions placed in my heart for most of my life. As a young teenager, I was engulfed in deep sorrow and despair that words could never describe. The gaping hole in my heart created so many challenges as I grew into a young adult, a wife, a mother, and a career woman. I have suffered from feelings of abandonment, unworthiness, shame, and low self-esteem just to name a few. For many years, I had a reoccurring dream that my brother and father had faked their deaths and were living their lives away from me. It was traumatic, and I missed them terribly. My young mind couldn’t comprehend why they chose to end their lives.
Throughout the years, I have felt so much sadness about all of the important events they have missed. My brother and I never had the opportunity to be good friends—something I have watched so many siblings do once they become adults. While my mother’s husband, the veterinarian who is my dad now, was a life-saver to my mother and me in so many ways, I have truly missed my biological dad. He missed walking me down the aisle at my wedding. He and my brother missed getting to know my husband and my children. The love that only a father and a daughter can know and the relationship that only a sister and a brother can share were lost when I was 12 years old. Although time has healed my wounds, the emptiness I feel about losing them never leaves me.
Since their deaths and throughout my life, I have experienced dark times—times of total despair—and, for brief moments, I had thoughts of giving up like my brother and dad did. However, these thoughts have always been immediately crushed by the harsh reality of how it would affect the people I would leave behind. I would never put my family and friends through the pain and long suffering I have experienced as a victim of suicide.
I am not sharing my story to place guilt on anyone who is suffering right now. I am sharing my story because I want to shed light on the reasons suicide is not the answer to relieving our feelings of hopelessness, despair, and pain.
As an adult, I have been fervently committed to a healthy life. It hasn’t been easy. It has taken years of therapy, personal development, and faith in God. This tragedy could have swallowed me whole and resulted in mental illness, addiction, or worse—suicide. Instead, I chose to fight for my life and not allow this tragedy to define me. Instead, it has made me strong. My wish is that this story—my story—gives you hope.
If you are suffering, I want you to know that you are loved by so many people. They care about you. You are special. You are worthy of love and worthy of having a healthy life. I want to encourage you to fight for YOU. Ask for help. Trust me, there are so many people who want to help you. All you have to do is ask for it. If you or anyone you know are in a crisis, here are some resources that can help you: