World Mental Health Awareness Day!

This day is dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues, advocating for those who may be navigating their own journey with mental illness, and reducing stigma around mental health disorders and their symptoms worldwide. Mental health concerns are one of the main causes of worldwide overall disease burden, with mental health and behavioral problems being the main causes of disability in 20 to 29 year-olds (Mental Health Foundation). Taking care of your mental health and reducing stigma is essential to preserving overall health of yourself and others.

Take some time today to take care of your own mental health and wellness by:

  1. Talking about your feelings
  2. Keeping active
  3. Eating well
  4. Drinking sensibly
  5. Keeping in touch
  6. Asking for help
  7. Taking a break
  8. Doing something you’re good at
  9. Accepting who you are
  10. Caring for others

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please know you are not alone and help is available.

Pierce County Crisis Line: 1.800.576.7764

Thurston/Mason County Crisis Line: 360.586.2800

King County Crisis Clinic:  1.866-427-4747

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255

National Pet Memorial Day: September 13th, 2020

September 13th, 2020 is National Pet Memorial Day. We at Summit Veterinary Referral Center, are thinking of all of you who are grieving and memorializing your beloved animals who have gone before you. Our hearts are with you.

Who have you been remembering today?

What memorials or rituals are you incorporating to honor your beloved friend?

As you reflect on your special animal, are there specific memories you cherish most that bring you comfort and keep your animal’s presence in your heart? What was special and unique about him or her and your unique relationship? As you pay tribute and reflect on your life together, think about the lessons they have taught you (and continue to teach you) that have inspired personal growth or perhaps offered you a legacy of their life. As you move beyond today and honor this bond, I wish for you feelings of joy and gratitude for the many memories and hope and peace for the future.

Ways honor and memorialize on this day:

  1. Write a Letter: Writing a letter to or from your companion animal that has passed can be a very soothing process to explore how you feel.
  2. Create a Scrapbook or Collage: Take pictures from your favorite memories with your animal and put them together. This can be a visual way to take a trip down memory lane.
  3. Create a Living Memorial: Plant something outside or get an indoor plant as a living symbol of your animal.
  4. Make a Donation: Donate to an organization or charity in honor of your animal to pass on their legacy. You can be creative with this, even if it is donating time by volunteering, or even doing charitable for one person instead of an organization.
  5. Frame a Special Photo: Put a special photo on display, or even have the photo or an item that belonged to your animal be with you while you listen to music, watch a movie, or do another activity you both enjoyed to do together.
  6. Read Some Poetry: Do some reading of meaningful poetry or passages that speak to you.
  7. Go on a socially distanced walk in a place that is meaningful to your relationship with your animal, or somewhere the brings you peace while you remember and reflect on your beloved animal.

Thank you for honoring the lives of companion animals with us. We welcome you to comment a picture of your beloved companion animal that has passed, as well as share their story and celebrate their life with us.

If you are struggling with the loss of your companion animal, you are not alone and we are here to support you. The veterinary social work team at Summit Veterinary Referral Ceremony offers individual counseling and support, as well as a pet loss support group twice per month. Please visit our website (https://www.summitvets.com/social-work.html), reach out via email to socialwork@summitvets.com for more information, or call us at: 253-983-1114, extension 116.

We may not be together,

In the way we used to be,

We are still connected

By a cord no eye can see

So whenever you need to find me

We’re never far apart

If you look beyond the horizon,

And listen with your heart.”

-unknown

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day

Did you know that veterinarians are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to experience a depressive episode, and 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population?

In honor of this day, our Social Work team at Summit Veterinary Referral Center has focused this week on encouraging our wonderful, dedicated and hard working staff to take good care of their mental health. We love our hospital and our staff!

Take a moment to show your gratitude and give thanks to your veterinarians and veterinary teams! They devote an immense amount of themselves and their expertise to taking amazing care of your animals!

Calling All Veterinary Professionals: One Week Left to Sign Up and Earn a CE!

Summit Veterinary Referral Center’s veterinary social work team is excited to present the first installment of the Finding Meaning in Veterinary Medicine Seminar Series as a response to the current pandemic. COVID-19 has impacted the veterinary community in so many ways, and created or highlighted gaps in our work, as well as areas for growth.

This seminar will focus on:

  • Tools and tips for navigating changes
  • Workplace stress
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Finding meaning in the work

Where: This seminar is being held online by the veterinary social work team at Summit Veterinary Referral Center, please RSVP for information about how to join!

When: Wednesday, August 19th 6:30pm-8:30pm

Cost: None

RSVP: Email socialwork@summitvets.com to RSVP

For more information, please contact:

Rachel  Wright and Allison Rolfe

email: socialwork@summitvets.com phone: 253.983.1114, extension 116

Pet Caregiver Seminar Online Series: Navigating Health Changes and Decision Making

Join Us on July 14th!

The first installment of this seminar series for animal caregivers will focus on advocacy for your animal, tips for processing the medical information, care plans, and more. We will begin the seminar with an educational presentation, followed by a short break before giving you the opportunity to share in our support circle. Informational packets will be provided for attendees as well.

Where: This seminar is being held online by the veterinary social work team at Summit Veterinary Referral Center, please RSVP for information about how to join!

When: July 14th from 6pm-8pm

Cost: None

RSVP: Email socialwork@summitvets.com to RSVP or sign up below to receive information to log-on

For more information, please contact:

Rachel  Wright and Allison Rolfe

email: socialwork@summitvets.com

phone: 253.983.1114, extension 116

Summit’s Veterinary Social Work July Group Offerings

As we head into the heart of the summer amidst this continued pandemic, it is harder than ever to connect with others the way we normally would during in these months.

While being away from our friends and family is hard, it can be even harder for those who are navigating caregiving for their companion animals, or for those who have lost their beloved animal friend.

Having a support system when faced with these experiences can be so healing, and even though we cannot meet in person, the social work team at Summit Veterinary Referral Center is here to support you.

Our support groups for animal caregivers, and for pet loss are continuing to be offered via Zoom, a confidential online medium.

All of our groups are offered at no-cost; please reach out for more information about how to join, or with any other questions!

Contact Information:

Rachel Wright & Allison Rolfe
Veterinary Social Work Team
Summit Veterinary Referral Center
2505 S. 80th St.Tacoma, WA 98409
Phone: 253.983.1114, ext. 116
Email: socialwork@summitvets.com

The Power of Planning in Companion Animal Caregiving: Part 1-Webinar Opportunity

When we bring a new pet into our families we take on the responsibility of caring for them for the rest of their lives, but what if something happens to us? Who would care for your animal or animals, and where would they go?

Unfortunately, accidents can happen when we least expect them, life transitions can occur unexpectedly, and the current state of pandemic can lead to rapidly changing circumstances. In the event that you are not longer able to care for your animals, It is important to plan ahead by making decisions about who will take over their care, where they will go, and what their care will look like. Advanced directives can be helpful in outlining your pet’s needs, and who should be next in line for assuming responsibility for their well-being.

Advanced Directives are documents that outline where you would like your animal to go if something should happen to you, or what your wishes are for your animal if they need medical attention and you are unable to relay those wishes directly.

Important information to include:

  • Emergency contact name and number
  • Payment information
  • Authorized amount for medical care
  • Veterinary contact name and number
  • Health care agent, and other people you trust to make decisions about your animal’s care
  • Medical records
    • Radiography (X-Rays etc.)
    • Diagnostic tests
    • Vaccination records
  • If there is a poor prognosis, be sure to include your wishes for resuscitation, end of life, and after care.

Helpful People and Places to Give Copies of Your Directive:

  • Family
  • Veterinarian
  • Emergency Veterinarian
  • Pet Sitter
  • Doggy Daycare
  • Friends
  • Lawyer

For a helpful example of an advanced directive: phttps://www.mulnixanimalclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/786/2018/11/Advanced-Directive-MAC.pdf

Webinar June 11th: Can You Trust Your Pet? Of course, with a Pet Trust!

Description: This webinar will focus on including your pets as part of your estate plan using a Pet Trust to ensure that no loved pet ever ends up alone, afraid, in a shelter or euthanized. Pets are treasured members of our family, yet they don’t have the ability to care for themselves if something happens to us. If a pet parent becomes disabled or dies, a Pet Trust can provide the resources to a named Pet Caregiver under the supervision of a Pet Trustee to ensure loving, lifetime care. Pet Trusts come in different shapes and sizes: Should your pet stay in your home while a Pet Caregiver moves in and provides care? Should your loved pet be placed with an alternate Forever Family who will never replace you, but can provide continued care? Or, perhaps your pet would be best served in a pet community like a sanctuary or perpetual care organization. Join us to learn more about how you can ensure that your loved pet remains in a loving home.

About the Presenter: Peggy Hoyt is a Stetson University graduate receiving her B.B.A. in 1981, her M.B.A. in 1982 and her J.D. in 1993. She is a founding partner of Hoyt & Bryan, LLC. and is dual certified by the Florida Bar in Wills, Trusts, and Estates and in Elder Law. She practices in the areas of family wealth and legacy counselling, including trust and estate planning and administration, elder law, small business creation, succession and exit planning, real estate transactions and animal law. She serves as a certified FINRA Arbitrator and is also a Florida Circuit Court Mediator concentrating in family business, estate administration, and animal law issues. Peggy was an adjunct professor of Animal Law with Barry University College of Law.

Time: June 11, 2020 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time

Link for Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Ym7K5taQTtinqOLycKWPpw

For questions regarding advanced directives, or for more information about caregiving for a beloved companion animal, please visit our website (https://www.summitvets.com/social-work.html), reach out via email to socialwork@summitvets.com, or call us at: 253-983-1114, extension 116.

World Pet Memorial Day: June 9th

Today is World Pet Memorial Day; a special day dedicated to honoring and celebrating the lives of the beloved companion animals we have lost from all around the world. A day to remember together the impact that these special relationships have on our lives, and to recognize the ones we have lost together. 

On this day, we invite you to take a moment of silence with us in honor of our loved and lost. Take this moment to think of your beloved companion animal or animals and let your mind wander as it navigates memories and emotions.

“Take one hand and hold it gently on your heart as if you were holding a vulnerable human being. You are.

As you continue to breathe, bring to mind the loss or pain you are grieving. Let the story, the images, the feelings come naturally. Hold them gently. Take your time. Let the feelings come layer by layer, a little at a time.

Keep breathing softly, compassionately. Let whatever feelings are there, pain and tears, anger and love, fear and sorrow, come as they will. Touch them gently. Let them unravel out of your body and mind. Make space for any images that arise. Allow the whole story. Breathe and hold it all with tenderness and compassion. Kindness for it all, for you and for others.”


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-Jack Kornfield

https://jackkornfield.com/meditation-grief/

Ways to Celebrate and Memorialize:

  1. Write a Letter: Writing a letter to or from your companion animal that has passed can be a very soothing process to explore how you feel.
  2. Create a Scrapbook or Collage: Take pictures from your favorite memories with your animal and put them together. This can be a visual way to take a trip down memory lane.
  3. Create a Living Memorial: Plant something outside or get an indoor plant as a living symbol of your animal.
  4. Make a Donation: Donate to an organization or charity in honor of your animal to pass on their legacy. You can be creative with this, even if it is donating time by volunteering, or even doing charitable for one person instead of an organization.
  5. Frame a Special Photo: Put a special photo on display, or even have the photo or an item that belonged to your animal be with you while you listen to music, watch a movie, or do another activity you both enjoyed to do together.
  6. Read Some Poetry: Do some reading of meaningful poetry or passages that speak to you.

Thank you for honoring the lives of companion animals around the world with us. We welcome you to comment a picture of your beloved companion animal that has passed, as well as share their story and celebrate their life with us.

If you are struggling with the loss of your companion animal, you are not alone and we are here to support you. The veterinary social work team at Summit Veterinary Referral Ceremony offers individual counseling and support, as well as a pet loss support group twice per month. Please visit our website (https://www.summitvets.com/social-work.html), reach out via email to socialwork@summitvets.com for more information, or call us at: 253-983-1114, extension 116.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month!

In 1949, May was designated as Mental Health Awareness Month to bring more attention to the role that mental health and wellness plays in the lives of Americans. The purpose of this month is to bring awareness to the importance of taking care of our mental health and wellness, and reducing stigma for those who are managing mental illness and symptoms of mental illness. 

But what is mental health?

This term can be daunting to some people due to the stigma that is tied to mental health, or rather mental illness; when our mental health is lacking in some way. However mental health and wellness is actually the combination of our psychological, social, and emotional well-being!

                  

During this pandemic we have seen reports of increased stress and anxiety leading to negative mental health affects, which could indicate the emergence of a potential mental health crisis. It is no surprise that we are seeing these results, and more than likely experiencing them first hand, with so much uncertainty, changes in routine, financial stress, and isolation from others. While mental health and wellness is important all of the time, just like our physical health, this pandemic has made it clear that we should take extra care of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. A recent study showed that 56% of people polled had reported worry or stress related to the coronavirus has resulted in the experience of at least one negative mental health effect, (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2020). Similar experiences of worry, stress, and negative impacts on mental health had been reported by 64% of front line healthcare workers and their families, and 65% of those who experienced income loss, (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2020). 

Why is this relevant for veterinary professionals?

The field of veterinary medicine is a field where the mental health and well-being of its members is already at higher risk, despite the pandemic. Veterinary professionals are more likely to develop symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, substance use, and other mental health challenges. Veterinary clinics have also faced difficulty during the pandemic due to reductions in revenue due to lock downs, as well as stress from changing protocols to provide the best care they can, while protecting the health and safety of their staff, clients, and patients. They are on the front lines of this pandemic too as essential employees and are at risk for similar mental health effects to those listed previously.

The Bright Side: 

While all of this information can seem discouraging, these statistics and trends are not destinies set in stone. The goal of mental health awareness month is to make people aware of the trends we see, help them identify areas they can improve their mental health, and reduce stigma and dismay about negative mental health symptoms and mental illness. 

Experiencing these reactions to the pandemic, as well as the high stress environment of a veterinary clinic is normal and expected

Saving the lives of animals is stressful and challenging, 
why wouldn’t it affect you? 

Being isolated and having your entire routine changed is jarring and scary, why wouldn’t that cause you to worry? 

All of these experiences and emotions are normal, and there are tools available to you to help navigate mental health, nourish your mind, nurture your spirit, and to promote wellness. 

Tools for mental health and wellness:


Social connection:

  • Make intentional contact to check-in with friends and family by phone, text, video chat, or even snail mail!
  • Engage with those around you at work or at the grocery store by showing compassion and care at a responsible distance. 
  • Support your local restaurants, grocery stores, and shops if you can by doing your shopping locally and online. 
  • Engage in community groups online: drive by birthday celebrations, virtual hiking groups, virtual trivia or movie nights. 

Staying Active: 

  • Practice yoga or stretching exercises inside, or at a safe distance outside
  • Take a safe, socially distanced walk through your neighborhood or on your local open trail
  • Take the long way when you walk your dog
  • Dance!
  • Do body weight workouts at home

Managing Stress:

  • Debrief with a friend, coworker, or supervisor after a tough day
  • Give yourself reasonable expectations
  • Create a task list to keep yourself organized and on track
  • Meditate
  • Make time for yourself
  • Set, or reset boundaries; say “no” to things outside of what you are willing to do, and know that it is OK to say “no”

Brain-Healthy Diet:

  • Nourish your body and your brain with nutrient dense foods
  • Eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Eat foods that make you feel good and work for you.
  • Snack on almonds, walnuts, broccoli, and blueberries, among other brain targeting foods
  • Drink at least 11.5-15.5 cups of water per day
  • Don’t forget to eat

Quality Sleep:

  • It is recommended that you sleep 7-9 hours per night
  • Avoid screen time at least 1-2 hours before bedtime
  • Establish a bedtime routine that works for you; this can help prepare your body for sleeping and get you ready to fall asleep faster
  • Reduce light entering your room by using blackout curtains, making sure all lights are off in your home, or using coverings for electronic lights that stay on
  • Maintain your bedroom between 60-67 degrees

Meaning and Purpose: 

  • Reflect on and express gratitude for yourself, others, and the world around you
  • Think about the lessons you have learned or can learn from adverse experiences
  • Be proud of the work that you are doing in your personal and professional life
  • Set SMART goals for yourself: (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)ttainable, (R)ealistic, (T)imely
  • Try something new
  • Make new connections

If you are a veterinary professional seeking tools, strategies or support to take care of your mental health and well-being, we are here for you!

Please reach out to us at:

socialwork@summitvets.com

253.983.1114, extension 116

Grieving the Loss of a Companion Animal During a Pandemic

Navigating the loss of a companion animal is a challenging and painful experience on it’s own, however when grief is interrupted a painful experience can be intensified. As the pandemic of COVID-19 has interrupted everyone’s daily lives and routines, it has also interrupted those who are dealing with a loss and working through their grief process. If you, or someone you know is navigating the loss of a pet during this time, we would like to offer our condolences, and let you know that you are not alone. 

While the outbreak of coronavirus has undoubtedly impacted our society on both the individual and global scales, it has placed additional stress to those experiencing the loss of a beloved companion animal in a number of ways: 

Reductions in veterinary care may have impacted your experience in saying goodbye to your beloved pet.


Restrictions on social gatherings may have impacted your ability to mourn and follow memorialization rituals. 

Anxiety about the uncertainty of the situation, and necessary precautions taken may have intensified your grief, or distracted you from your grief making you feel guilt about taking attention away from you beloved pet. 

Social supports may also be distracted at this time and may not be as helpful or available to you.

You may also be worried about other loved ones and your own health and experiencing grief related to pandemic in addition to your loss. 

 

If you are struggling with your grief and experiencing some of these things, or other effects of the pandemic and social distancing please know this: You are not alone, you are strong, and we are here for you. We know that isolation can be a real challenge, especially while grieving, but there are some things that you can do to alleviate some of the hardship of quarantine, and process your grief. 

Mourning:

Mourning is the process of expressing feelings of grief and loss and is often associated with different rituals or ceremonies where the bereaved are able to express their sorrow together. It can be challenging for those who lose a beloved companion animal to mourn in this way because funerals and other similar ceremonies are not as common; on top of that the social distancing guidelines make these types of gatherings impossible and unsafe. This does not mean that those who lose a companion animal are not allowed to have a funeral or ceremony to honor their loved one, but rather you are encouraged to do whatever feels right for you and your relationship with your companion animal. These ceremonies may not be held in the way you originally intended, planned, or envisioned, however that does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t still mourn in a way that is meaningful to you. Some ideas for mourning during this time: 

    • Have a funeral service at home with your immediate family members while wearing masks. 
    • Host a funeral where others are able to join via skype, zoom, or other video call. 
    • Utilize social media to share about your loss
    • Access online chat rooms and support groups to share with others who are going through the same thing. Summit Veterinary Referral Center offers a free pet loss support group online twice per month. 
    • Write a letter to your beloved companion animal, or from them to you. 
    • Express yourself through poetry, music, or other art forms and share them with others, keep them for yourself, or release them  once you were able to express how you felt. 
    • Do something that you liked to do together in honor of your companion animal. 
    • Send out cards with a photograph of your pet, informing those close to you and your pet of your loss. 
    • If none of these sound like the right fit until quarantines are lifted, then use this time to plan a ceremony or activity that feels right for you. 

Memorialization:

Memorialization is the way that we preserve our memories, and commemorate time, items, and energy to our animals after they have passed. Again, just as the grief process is unique to each individual, not all memorialization techniques and practices will feel “right” for everyone. Finding ways to honor and memorialize your companion animal can be a moving process that guides you through your grief journey by honoring and celebrating their life, lessons learned with them, and how they have impacted the future. Some ideas for memorialization include: 

    • Make a donation in honor of your pet’s name to a charity or organization that is meaningful to you both. 
    • Use your favorite photos to create a collage or album, and place photos around the house in their favorite spots.
    • Create a video montage of photographs and/or videos of your animal.  http://www.ilovemypetvideo.com/
    • Write a poem, story, song (or playlist) about and dedicated to your pet.
    • Write down your special memories of your pet. Add to these stories and anecdotes from friends and family and place in a scrapbook.
    • Plant a tree, bush, shrub, or flowers representing your pet; place your animal’s cremains in the soil with your plant.
    • Scatter ashes (partial or entirety) of your pet in his or her favorite spot(s).
    • Paint sacred rocks, or have a stone engraved and place them in your garden: http://www.apetmemorial.com/
    • Create something that reminds you of your pet – a drawing, clay sculpture, needlework project, glass ornament. Or, have a personalized piece of glass artwork created: http://www.rainbowbridgehearts.com/

Gratitude: 

Gratitude is a quality or feeling that can be so hard to grasp during the time of loss because you can think to yourself, “What do I have to be grateful for? I’m not thankful for my loss, or this pain”. Gratitude, however,  is one of the most healing elements you can introduce into your life, especially during grief. Understand that gratefulness is not about denial of loss and grief. Alternatively, we become more aware of the fullness of life – the beauty and the pain. Holding both means full engagement of the heart, full compassion, full living. It is important to practice gratitude and thank those who have been a support to you, your animal and all the wonderful lessons and memories they added to your life, and to yourself for all of the care and love you provided to your animal. Some ways to practice gratitude during this time include:

    • Send out cards with a photograph of your pet, thanking others for their support and impact on your animal’s life.
    • Reflect on lessons learned from your relationship with your companion animal; write them down or share them with others.
    • Take in and observe the small things around you, find appreciation in simplicity.
    • Write down 5-10 things outside of your relationship that you are grateful for.
    • Give back to others by volunteering, donating, or another act of kindness.

Self-Care: 

Lastly, as we enter the month of May, which is National Mental Health Month, I wanted to remind you all to take some time for intentional self-care. Not only is self-care important for everyone, it is especially important for those who are grieving. Being intentional about your self-care practices will help you to take the most away from those practices, and they can provide support to build resilience and strength in the face of grief, depression, anxiety, stress, and much more. Sometimes during the grief process, we can feel guilt around self-care, but taking care of your body, mind, and soul is not selfish and does not take away from your animal. Taking care of yourself allows you to heal around the loss of your companion animal and integrate the loss into your new life in a healthy way, it does not mean you are leaving them behind. Some ideas for self-care practices during this time:

    • Eat healthy foods that nourish your body.
    • Get fresh air daily, whether you are able to get outside for a moment, or just to open a window.
    • Get movement into your day in any form. You can dance, walk, run, jump, skip, bike, wiggle, stretch, whatever works for you.
    • Reach out to your loved ones and connect with them often.
    • Incorporate humor into your day; tell a joke, hear a joke, laugh with a loved one, watch a funny movie.
    • Meditate
    • Drink water

 

“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”
-Old Chinese proverb

 

 

 

Additional Resources:

 

 

 

 

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