Stripping off to support better mental health
Why Aussie vets stripped naked for a charity calendar to raise awareness of mental health issues facing veterinarians...
Did you know that vets are four times more likely to die by suicide than other healthcare professionals? To increase awareness and break the stigma of mental health, students form the Sydney School of Veterinary Science – is the leading veterinary education centre in Australia – set about producing a charity nude calendar. Grace Iacobbe, one of the brave participants, tells The Book of Man about baring her skin – to encourage others to bare their soul…
Why did you feel it was worth stripping off for the The Back Dog Institute?
“We knew that we wanted this year’s nude calendar to support a charity that focused on improving mental health, not only in the veterinary industry but across Australia. We chose the Black Dog Institute because of its heavy focus on education and programs designed specifically to break the stigma of mental health in the workplace. The rate of suicide for veterinarians is four times higher than the national average. As upcoming veterinarians and animal scientists, we want workplaces where we feel supported professionally and emotionally. The veterinary industry is a very emotional one, it’s devastating how many vets struggle with mental illness and the statistics on suicide in the industry is just scary.”
Why is the suicide rate amongst vets so high?
“Veterinarians invest a lot both physically and mentally into patient care, work long hours and often deal with aggression and unrealistic expectations from clients. On top of all of this, vets deal with euthanasia on a daily basis. Compassion fatigue and burnout are sadly terms widely understood in the veterinary industry. I have seen vets leave the industry, and struggle with the loss of their colleagues to suicide. It is truly heartbreaking as an aspiring veterinarian.”
It’s devastating to see vets struggle with mental illness
Have you any personal experience ? – was there a particular reason for highlighting Black Dog?
“All of the students who participated in this year’s calendar had their own reasons for supporting the Black Dog Institute and helping to fight the stigma surrounding mental health. For myself, the Black Dog Institute is extremely close to my heart as I have grown up seeing my Dad struggle with Bipolar Disorder for almost my entire life. It has been difficult to understand mental illness and certainly difficult to explain to friends and loved ones who do not understand or treat mental illness as seriously as they would a physical, more tangible illness. I wish more people understood mental illness and how to support both those who are unwell, and those who are impacted indirectly.”
Most people would be bloody terrified at the thought of going nude for the camera – did the volunteers need convincing?
“There were of course, people who were more hesitant to model, understandably, it is quite daunting to strip down in front of your peers. Once the shoots got underway we were able to laugh off the nerves and just have fun! We had puppies, chickens, piglets, cattle, horses and sheep included in our photoshoot, working with animals is definitely unpredictable and made for an interesting day.”
What was the funniest bit of the shoot?
“The more people involved in a single shot the more comical it became. Coordinating everyone in position to smile, pose, and simultaneously cover their delicates was quite a mission. Some of the boys were involved in a sunrise photo, where they took it upon themselves to jump in the lake – it turned out to be one of our best shots!”
Are naked calendars damaging to women or just a bit of fun?
“The thought that anyone would see this calendar as damaging to women is unsettling, particularly in a time of strong female movement towards equality. The day of the photoshoot was one of the most uplifting and empowering experiences of my life, there was such a strong sense of body positivity, respect, and admiration for each other. I hope people see the calendar as a reflection of brave, intelligent men and women who are making change in the world.”
People can be pretty mean on social media – how has the nude calendar gone down online?
“Of course as we have circulated our nude calendar in the media we have faced negative comments, there will sadly always be people out there who will try and find things to be negative about. As a predominantly female based cohort, we have faced sexist comments and negative assumptions about our motivations to produce this calendar. We question whether those people had the same thought towards our male models, and wonder what it is about natural, healthy bodies that would offend anyone. We have never felt the need to defend the calendar – we are so extremely proud of what we have achieved and the incredible amounts of support we receive worldwide.”
The calendar made a huge splash – were your parents surprised to see it make headlines around the world?
“I’m sure there will be some parents who will get a shock when they open their Christmas presents this year to see their kids posing in the nude calendar! I know the majority of students were supported in their decision to participate, and we have had so many friends and families of students already purchase the calendars in excitement.”
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