Why is the suicide rate among animal shelter staff relatively high? Is it because of the kind of person working at shelters or the work they do, or both? Are they paid enough?
One of the pages on this website did very well. It received thousands of hits and Facebook ‘Likes’. It is a page about the suicide rate of animal rescue workers in the USA (link opens a new tab). They have the highest level of suicides of all workers in the USA and it equals the suicide rate of police officers and firefighters in that country.
It is worth noting, however, that if one links salary or the hourly rate of these workers to the suicide rate it is quite clear that animal rescue workers are by far the worst off. In other words animal rescue workers suffer stress and traumatic situations quite often. Does their remuneration compensate them adequately? Whereas for firefighters and police officers their remuneration (including nice pensions and job security) provides adequate compensation for the psychological risks of the job.
You would have thought that salary levels go hand-in-hand with job risk factors but does this apply to animal rescue work?
My research indicates that animal rescue workers in the USA are paid around $14 per hour. Firefighters earn approximately $23 per hour and police officers earn approximately $35 per hour (figures from indeed.com and convertunits.com).
It might be argued, therefore, that animal rescue workers are underpaid and perhaps undervalued by society. It may be the case that there is an oversupply of applicants for animal rescue work which forces their salary down. However, I think that the main reason is that animals are not valued highly enough and therefore those who work in the field are also undervalued. There is perhaps a complicating factor…
The high suicide rate among animal rescue workers might partly or wholly be because the work attracts a certain type of individual who is psychologically fragile. I am not in any way denigrating animal shelter staff. I admire them greatly (except the ones who have adopted practices). It may be the case that working with animals attracts individuals with an identifiable psychological profile. One which is more likely to lead to suicidal thoughts.
For example, rescue staff may have a ‘rescue personality’. The characteristics of this personality type is a person who is very committed and dedicated driven by great empathy for the animals. This mentality may leave them more vulnerable to life’s stresses.