"Animal advocates share much in common with veterinarians who suffer from feelings of hopelessness and depression two to three times more often than most people. Their suicide rates are double those of doctors, and four to six times higher than the general population."
Referencing this article in the Boston Globe about the high suicide rate among veterinarians, the above posted by In Defense of Animals stopped me in my tracks, first for a targeted "share for shares" on Facebook, then to share my thoughts here...
For several years I volunteered with City Critters Inc in NYC caring for rescues (mainly cats and kittens), counseling adopters and often handling intake requests - this last being the most difficult. I learned firsthand what those who accept this lifetime calling face on literally an hourly basis, often including life and death decisions and bullying from the "human" community. Several people I adored and would refer to as Earth Angels left this plane too soon.
It is hard to care for yourself under conditions where there is so much need and only so much of you. Even working 24/7 there will always be innocents your love cannot save, the need is just to great, the numbers loo large. This is where we all need to look at the bigger picture.
The first step, of course, is not to lose YOU! Burning out means you are able to accomplish less, not more - you can't achieve your highest if you are sick, tired, scared, beating yourself up, or simply not here. Once you learn to ground your activism in LOVE and carry on, you are also needed for step 2 -- more people are needed as fosterers, carers, adopters, donors etc. Using new tools it becomes a joy to invite others to join - we can do more for animals by reaching out to humans.
One of the lights of my life at the time was a young man who came to me with a photo of his cat and his beloved. She had passed away and he explained to me that the "cat hates me." I looked at the cute calico and sweet woman in the photo and I felt his grief just streaming. I KNEW he had to keep that cat, but did not think he could hear it in the moment. So I told him to send photos but hold onto her, if possible, until a space opened up. A couple of weeks and scant emails later, I received a photo - of him and now - HIS cat. I felt grateful and blessed.
You have to listen, without judgement, and act from the heart, it is so rewarding, And all you really have to lose is your harsh judgement of yourself.
IDA offers a monthly forum to support animal activists: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EC51D88484473E
Veterinarians, so many of whom encounter the same stresses and collaborate with rescues, can also find support at:http://www.criticalcarevet.ca/wellness
I am also pleased to offer individual guidance and recommendations of resources (such as davidji.com for meditation right now!) for rescuers on a pro-bono basis. Just knowing you do what you do makes my world a better place...