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Issue: 71 - Nov 14, 2014
Wintertime Blues: SAD, Compassion Fatigue and Depression
By: Chery F. Kendrick, DVM, MPVM, MLT, CFS
Kendrick Technical Services, LLC

As fall seems to be racing into winter, let’s take a look at a few special ‘seasonal’ OSHA topics:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • (SAD) Compassion Fatigue
  • Depression

How are these OSHA related? Simply put depression, and both SAD and CF have depression as a primary component, found in even one staff member, will negatively impact the morale and energy of your entire staff. This can quickly affect job performance, job satisfaction, attention to details and thereby workplace safety.

In our Compassion Fatigue/Dealing with Stress workshops we show how mood, body language, and attitude will immediately affect the team and the work they are doing. In role playing, team members experience the quick change in the ‘temperature’ of a room when one or more members are experiencing negative emotions, even when they are trying not to let the others know. We are acutely aware of the tone and tenor of those around us, the energy put out by them. We pick up on changes in moods at the subconscious level and are constantly adjusting our behavior in response to the moods of others around us.

This is true for all emotions, but let’s takes a look at the one we are all familiar with at this time of year that has a negative impact: Seasonal Affective Disorder syndrome or SAD.

SAD is directly related to the change in seasons, most predominantly the change from fall into winter. Specifically we are reacting to the shortening of daylight – the circadian rhythm- with the hormones of the pineal gland and hypothalamus reacting with varying results. Some are simply tired for a few days, especially as we change the clocks in the fall, but quickly adjust and are fine. Others are more persistently affected and fall into deep dark depressions which affect their quality of life and that of those interacting with them.

That depression and worsening mood can affect your workplace and your ability to interact with clients and colleagues. It is not surprising that we see an increase in calls for our Compassion Fatigue/Dealing with Stress workshops and workbooks at this time of year. While working though the workshop and tools in the workbook on Dealing with Stress and Compassion Fatigue in the Veterinary Practice, I make a special point to include a discussion of SAD and the studies of this fall into winter depression. We also discuss the latest studies on simple things one can do to help alleviate symptoms.

One of the most significant findings in recent years has been the discovery that daily exposure to early morning light will decrease symptoms significantly. We all know light therapy in general has been a treatment recommendation for some time, but natural light at dawn or early morning has been found to have even more of the benefits associated with exposure to full spectrum lighting, even if it is cloudy or dreary out!

It has also been found to be very helpful to have a full spectrum light in the break room. Also exercise and fresh air help! Do some group tai chi or yoga or a few simple stretches. Or take a walk around the clinic grounds on your breaks.

Melatonin supplements have also been found to be a good natural way to help alleviate the symptoms.

And then there is Compassion Fatigue which is often simply defined as ‘job burnout.’ While that definition is somewhat correct, in our profession CF is usually something a little more complex than simple job burnout. Compassion Fatigue is the feeling of overwhelming sadness and helplessness that comes with constant exposure to cases where we see less than desirable outcomes. Simply because of the nature of our job, the patients we see, the conditions we treat, and the clients we interact with, we are often frustrated and saddened by what we see. This is especially true with issues of noncompliance, abuse or neglect. We are also often left feeling devalued and underappreciated. These feelings, like SAD, will lead to depression, and affect the performance and interaction in the workplace.

What to do? Talk it out. Don’t let things fester and build up. Once again exercise, especially meditative exercises like tai chi and yoga have been found to help clear the mind, clear the body and help you better cope with the pain of our professional duties. Get out in the fresh air and sunlight! Remember even if it is cloudy and dreary outside, and you are sitting there saying: ‘Sun? What sun??!!??’ being outside is good for you. You benefit from the sun even if you don’t see it; your body feels it and benefits from it!


What can I say that has not already been said by others?

It has been an interesting fall for our profession, one marred by the loss of some fine colleagues to suicide and cancer. There has been so much written, so many attempts made to open up the discussion on depression and suicide that I am not going to reiterate those things here.

What I Am going to do however is to offer a hand, a heart, an ear and my phone number. Write it down. Call me, text me, email me – reach out! No matter what the time of day or night - I Will be there for you. You are NOT alone - truly. I do understand and am here for you. I really do get it and I survived, so I want to be here for You, to let you know we can get through this together.

I Am Here For You! One vet to another….one survivor to another, seriously, let’s do this together. You are NOT alone.

24/7/365, call 865-405-4255. Add it to your phone Now!

Peace my friends.

Stay safe out there, take care of yourselves, and have a blessed holiday season.

Please feel free to send me an email or text regarding this article or any of my articles. Send me an email, shoot me a text or give me a call.

Write to me at

As always please feel free to contact me with any OSHA questions or concerns.



Chery F. Kendrick, DVM, MPVM, MLT, CFS is a writer, educator, speaker and consultant. She is the nation’s leading veterinary regulatory control and OSHA expert.

Her time spent in Washington D.C. as an advocate for the veterinary profession with OSHA and other regulatory agencies has resulted in many positive compliance changes for our industry.

Her manuals and training programs are used by clinics and animal care facilities nationwide. She has the only GHS compliance program specifically for the veterinary practice and designed the most widely used Compassion Fatigue Prevention program used nationwide.

She speaks at association meetings and conferences and clinics across the country as well as holds workshops and retreats in her beautiful Smokey Mountains of Eastern TN. Her well attended workshops are constantly praised as powerful resources for veterinarians, and their practice managers and staff.

Her new Website promises to be an exciting addition to the world of online resources for the veterinary practice. Watch as it grows this winter with On-Demand Webinars!

For information on Dr. Kendrick’s onsite OSHA consulting services, manuals, training programs, charts and safety supplies please visit the Website or call her at 865-405-4255 or email:

Watch our new website as it updates to include On-Demand Webinars and Staff Training! Check us out at:

Need a speaker at your meeting? Call to get your clinic or association meeting on our schedule! 865-405-4255