How Banfield Pet Hospital is responding to the veterinary industry’s mental health crisis

Veterinarians struggle with psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.

Banfield partnered with six dog influencers.
Banfield partnered with six dog influencers.

Campaign: ASK (assess, support, know)
Company: Banfield Pet Hospital
Agency partners: Coyne PR
Duration: September 2019 to January 2020

One-in-six veterinarians considers suicide, and one-in-10 suffers from severe psychological distress. In response to the field’s mental health crisis, Banfield Pet Hospital closed its more than 1,000 locations for two hours in January to facilitate interactive mental health training.

Banfield Pet Hospital’s goal was to illuminate the size of the problem as well as draw attention to its mental health and wellness training for veterinarians. It created a course with the specific purpose of helping Banfield’s more than 3,600 veterinarians recognize symptoms of psychological distress and suicidal ideation, both within themselves and coworkers.

“This is a profession that people go into because they have a calling: they love animals,” said Jennifer DeNick, a Coyne PR SVP who heads the agency’s pet and animal team. “To have a big part of their jobs be putting animals down, to deal with animals who are greatly sick, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

On top of that, many veterinarians are saddled with a significant amount of student debt. In general, these are largely invisible issues to the general public.

“For most of us, when we think about a veterinarian, we think, ‘Oh, they get to help cats and dogs all day,’” DeNick said.

The campaign unfurled in two phases. The first was Banfield’s announcement that it was developing an ASK (assess, support, know) mental health training program for its employees. Time magazine was given an exclusive and covered the initiative in September 2019.

The second phase of the campaign took place on January 6, 2020, a date chosen in observance of the one-in-six statistic. For two hours that day, Banfield closed all hospitals nationwide in order to facilitate interactive training for its veterinarians and hospital associates. It also made the training available as a free resource for veterinarians outside its network.

Banfield partnered with six dog influencers, including Kelly Bove, Ralph the Corgi and Albert on Wheels, to get the word out and raise awareness.

View this post on Instagram

Friends – did you know that according to the CDC, 1 in 6 veterinarians considers suicide? We absolutely love our veterinarian, who has been keeping us healthy and able to live our best lives for the last 6 years. We want ALL our veterinarians to know they are loved and supported. That’s why we are honored to be working with @BanfieldPetHospital to help make a better world for pets by making a better world for the people who care for them. Today, Banfield Pet Hospital is making its “ASK – Assess, Support, Know” suicide prevention training available as a free resource for all veterinary professionals and veterinary school students to help them recognize and address emotional distress and suicidal thoughts. To honor our veterinarians and help raise awareness for this important issue, we will be going dark for the rest of the day. You can learn more about Banfield’s “ASK” training at ? #ad

A post shared by Ralph the Corgi (@ralphthecorgi) on

View this post on Instagram

Did you know.... According to the CDC, 1 in 6 veterinarians considers suicide? We want to make sure our veterinarians know how much we appreciate all that they do for us each and every year, because A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS starts with helping to create a better world for those who care for them. We are honored to work with Banfield Pet Hospital on such an important issue. @BanfieldPetHospital ‘s new training program "ASK – Assess, Support, Know” is designed for veterinary professionals to help them recognize and address suicidal thoughts, and as of today, it’s being made available as a free resource to the entire veterinary profession and veterinary school students. To honor our veterinarians, we will be going dark for the rest of today. Be sure to show your support by reaching out to your veterinary team to express your appreciation for all they do to make A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. Learn more about “ASK” by visiting the link in our bio. #ad

A post shared by ? Envy , Zain & Trek (@kelly_bove) on

The influencers posted about the initiative in the morning of January 6 “and then we asked them to go dark for the rest of the day,” DeNick said.

The comments included a wide range of responses, everything from, “‘I’ve never thought about this, thanks for bringing it to light,’” to, “personal was shocking for me to look through the comments and see how many people had them.”

The campaign generated 122 earned media placements in addition to Time, including articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, People, and the Drudge Report.

On social media, the influencer campaign generated a total of 41,854 engagements, including thousands of comments.

“We knew this was a win when the client told us that she was out at dinner, and the table behind her was talking about the Time article,” DeNick said. “It’s not often you hear strangers talking about an article you helped develop and put out there. When we heard that we were like, ‘Wow, this is big.’”

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