A ‘fun and caring’ fitness model and vet who once auditioned for Bondi Vet tragically took her own life after being brutally abused by a client during Melbourne’s sixth lockdown.
Sophie Putland struggled with depression and, according to a friend, was in a state of despair when an irate client filed endless complaints about her work at Swan Street Vet in the inner-city suburb of Richmond.
The 33-year-old struggled with her mental health during Covid lockdowns – at one point she wrote on Instagram that her sanity was “hanging by a thread” – but a friend confirmed on Tuesday that a campaign of abuse was pushing her over the edge.
She ended her life last week.
In a heartbreaking Facebook post, the friend described the horrific abuse vets receive daily from disgruntled customers.
Sophie Putland (pictured) committed suicide last week after endless complaints from an irate customer
Sophie Putland (pictured) was also a fitness model who competed in bodybuilding competitions
“If we’re fighting to save your pet’s life…don’t abuse us. Don’t make comments like we’re doing it for the money. Don’t say we could have done better. Don’t yell at us. Don’t take your frustrations out on us. Don’t be a horrible person,” she wrote.
“You could push someone over the edge. You don’t know what it’s like to lose a patient you tried to save, or to save a patient and then be scolded about how much it will cost the owner.
‘Sophie ended her life because of this. Because someone chose to abuse her.’
According to the Australian Veterinary Association, veterinarians have one of the highest suicide rates, about four times the national average — or about one suicide every 12 weeks in Australia.
The alarming statistic is twice as high as their counterparts in human medicine.
In a 2020 Instagram post, Sophie Putland (pictured) said she was struggling during Covid lockdowns
Sophie used exercise to maintain her mental health and competed in fitness competitions
Claire MacRae, who is also a veterinarian and was friends with Sophie, told Daily Mail Australia that customers often complain to the Veterinary Council if they are not happy with the service provided.
Most complaints made are unfounded and thrown out, but the board is obligated to investigate every case – even if it was brought up by an irrational and angry customer who was looking for someone to blame for their pet’s death .
“Having a board complaint is incredibly stressful and so easy for a disgruntled client to file,” said Dr MacRae.
“It can be years before the vet gets the decision on their case, and meanwhile they have this threat to their livelihood hanging over their heads – boards have the power to temporarily or permanently deregister vets, or to impose other sanctions.
“Sophie had been dealing with a particularly vengeful complainant, and this would certainly have had a negative impact on her mental health.”
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Vetboard Victoria for comment.
Family and friends flocked to social media to pay tribute to Sophie Putland, who died last week
Sophie worked as a vet in South Australia before moving to Melbourne two years ago
Sophie was open about her mental health issues during Covid lockdowns in 2020
Sophie was open about her mental health issues during the second wave of Covid in the state in August last year – when citizens were banned from leaving their homes for 111 days.
She wrote on Instagram that she was “holding her sanity” and thanked her local gym for providing fitness equipment to use during restrictions – without which “I would definitely be at the bottom of a pit of depression.”
“2020 you are a big pile of dog shit,” she added.
Melburnians have now endured more than 200 days of lockdown since the start of the pandemic, with 221 new Covid cases reported on Wednesday.
Originally from South Australia, the vet used exercise to fight her depression and competed in a series of bodybuilding and fitness competitions.
In 2017, she auditioned for a spot with famed doctor Chris Brown in Bondi Vet.
“Fitness is a big passion of mine,” she said in her audition video.
“I believe that physical and mental health are interrelated and it’s so, so important to make this a priority in your life, especially as a veterinarian, because it can be a pretty stressful job.”
Sophie auditioned to star in Bondi Vet alongside famed doctor Chris Brown. In the photo: Sophie in her audition video
In the days following her death, friends and family flocked to social media to pay tribute
In the days following her death, friends and family flocked to social media to pay tribute.
Her cousin, Hugh Atkinson, said he was extremely proud of Sophie’s achievements as a veterinarian and that he was so open about her mental health issues.
“We didn’t know how great your despair was,” he wrote.
“In the end you just wanted the pain to be over…and I understand that.”
Her younger brother, Olly Putland, uploaded a photo of the two together on Facebook, writing: ‘My dear sister. I miss you very much! REST IN PEACE.’
A friend commented, “Our hearts are shattered by the loss of Sophie. I send you lots of love and hugs to share with you during this sad time.
‘Sleep peacefully forever. RIP beautiful Sophie.’
A colleague also said that Sophie was a ‘nice, caring, genuine, great vet, but most of all a great person’.
For 24/7 confidential support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14