The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the mental health of people all over the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide, with women and young people being the most affected. Other studies found social distancing may have disproportionately impacted aging adults already suffering from loneliness and social isolation.
At Mars, we believe pets play an important role in supporting our mental health. Increasing scientific evidence suggests owning or simply interacting with companion animals can help people of all ages cope with stress and relieve feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Our Associates have been sharing how their pets and patients have helped them cope with the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic by being their very own mental health heroes over the last two years.
Jamie Freyer, DVM, Manager, Data and Veterinary Genetics (clinical research) at Wisdom Panel, Kinship
"The few months after my cancer diagnosis were full of visits to oncology specialists, surgery, chemotherapy, and finally radiation. The chemo weakened me dramatically, and I became quite depressed. When I cried, Ailean would jump up immediately from wherever he was, and come over to lick my tears dry. It's hard not to smile when there is 20 pounds of fluff attending to your misery! He also figured out other ways to help. When he saw that I had become too weak to ably pick him up, he would jump up into my arms to make it easier for me. For Reggie, she had always enjoyed a good snuggle. Her role was to comfort. She became a great 'little spoon' during my many naps, resting her head on the pillow next to mine and nestling right in.
Over the following year, my demanding treatment schedule came to an end, and I returned to work. However, I still didn't feel like myself. I could barely walk up a set of stairs or take a shower without running out of breath and having to sit down. I was unhappy and unsure of life in general. I needed to pull myself back together. I found a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team and started working out with them. Since then, I have lost weight, gained muscle, and I now have enough energy and stamina to take both of my dogs to do the things that they love. I know that if not for them, I would not be in the strong and positive place I am today. "
Kari Obermeyer, Veterinarian Specialist, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital
"Smooshie is an American Wirehair which is the rarest purebred cat and is a mutation of the American Shorthair. Carlin had a broken tail that had to be amputated, and he became my Mr. Nubbins.
Who says we can only have one hero in our life? Not a day goes by where these guys can't make me laugh. Somedays after a 14-15 hour ER shift filled with death and tragedy, it doesn't seem like there would be much to smile about, but our own pets are a constant reminder of what a source of happiness and joy they are in our lives, and that's why we go to work every night so that we can provide comfort and peace to other people’s four-legged heroes."
Marta Orłowska, Activation Deployment Manager, Pet Nutrition Europe
"The day always starts better when Fredzia joins me and jumps in my lap, once I've turned on my computer. It’s very relaxing to be able to pet my cat’s soft fur and be awarded with a loud & *purr*. I’m very grateful to have her around as she can lighten any stress and comforts me just with her company."
Annalise Sharpe, Veterinary Assistant, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital
"Popper is always there when anyone needs a little laugh, pun intended as he is only 31 inches tall! He is there to support with kisses, gives great hugs, and can put a smile on anyone’s face with his quirky personality."
These stories (and many others) are the reason why we’re committed to our Purpose: A Better World For Pets. This also means taking steps every day to make a better world for the people who care for them: our more than 70,000 veterinary Associates.
“The truth is veterinary professionals cannot provide the care we want to – the care our patients deserve – without first caring for ourselves and each other," shares Dr. Jennifer Welser, Chief Medical Officer at Mars Veterinary Health.
Across Mars Veterinary Health, we continue to invest in supporting our Associates’ health and wellbeing to enhance their lives both personally and professionally.
Here are just a few examples:
- MVH4You.com is an online mental health resource center available to Associates and the entire veterinary profession
- Banfield, VCA, and BluePearl provide Associates free access for team members to mental health services like Spring Health, Lyra, and Headspace.“ASK – Assess, Support, Know” is a first-of-its-kind suicide prevention training that we designed specifically to help veterinary professionals recognize and address emotional distress and suicidal thoughts. The 30-minute interactive eLearning is available to the entire veterinary profession for free and includes real-life scenarios, talking points, myth vs. facts, and resources to help guide veterinary professionals. “ASK” is endorsed by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), is RACE-approved for continuing education, and has been completed by more than 25,000 people to date.
- BluePearl’s Wellness Ambassador Program was developed by the practice’s Health and Wellbeing Team, which consists of 12 licensed social workers, to promote health and wellbeing among Associates through Mental Health First Aid-trained Wellness Ambassadors. Wellness Ambassadors serve as liaisons between BluePearl hospitals and BluePearl’s veterinary social work and leadership teams, in addition to championing Associate participation in wellness programs, training, and events. BluePearl aims to have more than 200 Wellness Ambassadors in its hospitals by the end of this year.
- Mars Veterinary Health is investing in increased wages and benefits for its Associates across North America, including paid parental leave, disability, and 401(k), along with more than 10,000 U.S. Associates benefitting from a $15/hour wage floor.
Loved these pet stories? Follow Mars Petcare to learn more about the benefits of pet ownership and hear more from our inspiring Associates around the globe.