WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - At Valley Central Veterinary Referral Center in Whitehall Township, the staff is busy tending to patients.

Ask anyone in veterinary medicine and they'll tell you - they work to save lives.

But dig a little deeper, and you'll hear about the dark side of the profession.

"We had three colleagues who committed suicide in a week," said Dr. Ronald Hodges, with the referral center.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, suicide rates for veterinarians are nearly three to five times higher than the general population. The AMVA says a number of things contribute to the statistics, including the emotional paradox of loving animals and ending their lives.

"I had a case yesterday where the owner's pet was diagnosed with cancer but her father died on the same day that we euthanized her pet. It was the most incredible emotion I've ever experienced so I had to get her through," Hodges said.

Hodges says in any given day, a vet may euthanize several pets, and it's especially hard when the animal can be treated, but the owner cannot or will not pay for it.

"It can be hard on your soul when you're accused of not loving animals because you're charging for your services," said Kristin Fisher, with the referral center.

Cyber bullying is another factor. Just google any vet's name and chances are negative comments pop up.

And if you add in student loan debt averaging $100,000, it can be overwhelming for some in a profession that sees euthanasia as a way to ease suffering.

"It's not a big jump to say, hey I am suffering I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel this could make my suffering and pain go away," said Brian Bourquin, with Not One More Vet, a public charity.

That pain was thrust into the spotlight for vets in 2014 after world-renowned dog trainer Sophia Yin took her life.

"It was a shock to the whole veterinary community and so people were struggling with where to take these feelings and emotions," Bourquin said.

The organization Not One More Vet was created in Yin's memory, to promote mental wellness by providing support and resources to vets.

Hodges says it's just one important piece in an ongoing dialogue within his profession.

If you or someone you love is struggling, you can reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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