In Memoriam: Dr. Sophia Yin

Widely popular California veterinarian and behaviorist Sophia Yin tragically committed suicide on Sunday.  From her obituary in the Sac Bee:

Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and internationally recognized pioneer in the field of animal behavior as it relates to training pets, died Sept. 28 of suicide at her Davis home, according to the Yolo County coroner’s office. She was 48.
Dr. Yin taught animal owners and trainers to reward animals for positive behaviors as they occur and to remove rewards for bad behavior. In addition, she developed and promoted “low-stress handling” techniques for treating and working with animals in veterinary clinics, zoos, shelters, groomers and other care settings.

It’s not uncommon for caretakers to put the emotional well being of others, including animals, first. But you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s not bad to put your needs first. In fact, it empowers you to make sure you are able to care for those around you.

If you need someone to talk to, call 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night to talk to a trained counselor. You can also chat online.

Please feel welcome to share thoughts regarding Dr. Yin’s life and work in the comments.

19 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Dr. Sophia Yin

  1. I am saddened much by her passing, she made a difference in this harsh world. Many times I forget to take care of myself and when you see how many beautiful loving dogs get euthanized before you can network them and find them safe homes it gets me physically and emotionally ill.
    It’s all right to hurt inside and out, but love and heal yourself too. Dr.Yin will be missed.

  2. Thank you for sharing and talking about the roles of caretakers, I really appreciate it. Thank you for advocating for self care! I am always sad to hear when someone takes their own life.

  3. As someone who is the primary caretaker for an elderly parent, this post is particularly timely for me. Long term caretaking of any kind can be profoundly emotionally draining and isolating. Two days ago I actually found myself using the chat room linked to in this post…you don’t need to be having suicidal thoughts to call a hotline or use the chat. It’s also for people feeling depressed, feeling in crisis, or who just need someone to talk to for any reason.

  4. I am so sad to read this. My sympathy to the family and loved ones of Dr. Yin. In my area there is a support group for grief and mourning for families and loved ones. The groups also include support for those families and loved ones regarding suicide.

    1. It’s not always that simple or easy. Caregivers especially tend to put on a happy face because we feel responsible and don’t want to upset or burden others. We’re meant to be the ones in control who have it all together, and it isn’t always easy for someone in a caregiver position to say “please, I need help.” I’m really floundering right now with trying to take care of my aging mother…she has serious mental illness issues and her behavior is bordering (if not well past) the line of emotional abuse. But I’ve been in this role since I was 13, and being ‘the caretaker’ has pretty much become my identity, to the point where admitting I’m struggling is a struggle in itself. People can hid a huge amount of pain behind a smile.

      1. Our society doesn’t support families the way it should, so there can be truly extraordinary work required of caregivers. The resulting achievements are extraordinary, too, but they come at tremendous, in some cases life-changing, cost — I’ve seen it, and to some degree experienced it directly, in my own family. I hope it’s not out of line for me to say this, and I don’t know if visualizing things makes any difference, but I am envisioning some changes for you: time for yourself, a sense of space and safety, and a recognition of your unique importance apart from your caregiving role. You are in my thoughts.

      2. I can only offer my sympathy, Tired Caregiver. I’ve been there.

        I had not known Dr Yin was a caregiver.

        I participate in the Monday Candle Ceremony. It seems appropriate to add her name.

  5. My association with Dr. Yin was the charming and beautifully concise posters on dog behavior she did with the young illustrator Lili Chin:

    I think it would be great if every shelter, rescue, vet’s office, pediatrician’s office, and pet store had these on the wall. And police departments should give them to every police officer during academy training. They’re so simple, but they get the point across.

    1. What a wonderful legacy she is leaving. I didn’t realize it was suicide, either, and that makes it all the more tragic. I hope she is at peace now. Please, everyone, if you are struggling with sadness and depression that feels overwhelming, get help. I think this must be “common” in those who deal with so much ugliness in their lives. RIP Dr Yin. You have made a huge difference for so many people and the animals they love.

  6. A vet friend of mine told me that veterinarians are number 1 in occupation of people who commit suicide. This is VERY sad, as it seems that only the best seem to do this. I would wonder if there is anything that clients can do to change this statistic?

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