We’re Only Human
Sophie’s Legacy to curb mental health crisis among veterinarians
Sunday 28 May
The grieving parents and loved ones of a young veterinarian who died by suicide after being bullied by an angry pet owner have launched a national campaign urging people to be kind to veterinary staff.
For the first time since losing their daughter Sophie Putland in September 2021, Garry and Kate Putland have spoken to the media and launched the “We’re Only Human” campaign, which will be rolled out in thousands of veterinary practices across the nation, as well as online.
In the wake of Sophie’s death, loved ones set up a GoFundMe Page for her family that – to date – has raised almost $50,000, which they have used to launch Sophie’s Legacy.
“We were so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for Sophie and for our family. We knew then and there that we wanted to put that money into helping to prevent suicide in the veterinary industry,” Garry said.
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 facing those in the industry.
“Sophie was a bright, ambitious, loving daughter and veterinarian who had the world at her feet – we will never get over losing her,” Garry said.
“The biggest issue the survey revealed was client abuse – where animal owners lash out at staff, especially over vet bills. Pretty much every person surveyed said this was the number one issue that really affected their mental health,” Garry said.
Other issues like burnout, under resourcing and unattainable treatment time targets set by some employers were also identified by survey respondents as causing widespread mental illness among veterinary staff.
“These are all things that Sophie experienced – and that final, really nasty abuse she copped, we believe, just sent her over the edge,” Garry said.
“We never want anyone to experience the loss that we have, ever.”
Garry and Kate Putland said it was unacceptable that on average, every 12 weeks, a vet in Australia take their own life and that a vet was four times more likely to take their own life compared with the general population.
The Putland family partnered with the Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH), to unveil the “We’re only human” campaign. (Sophie’s beloved golden retriever Henry, who has been adopted by Sophie’s aunt and uncle in Melbourne, attended the launch.)
Thousands of posters will be displayed in veterinary clinics across the nation with the headline “We’re Only Human”.
The campaign also includes a QR Code pledge, which pet owners are asked to scan to pledge that they’ll treat staff with respect.
SASH veterinarian and co-founding partner Andrew Dunn said his organisation had put several programs in place to support staff, particularly when it came to client abuse, which he said is all too common.