March 26, 2010
Veterinarians are four times as likely as the general public, and twice as likely as other health care professionals, to die by suicide, according to a 10-page report in Britain's Veterinary Record.
Possible reasons for the high rate include the characteristics of individuals entering the field, negative effects during undergraduate training, work-related stress, stigma associated with mental illness, professional and social isolation, and alcohol or drug misuse, according to the authors, David Bartram and D.S. Baldwin. Drug misuse was mostly tried to prescription drugs to which the profession has ready access, the authors said.
Bill Reilly, president of the British Veterinary Association, which publishes the Veterinary Record, said professional groups like his can help as more is learned about the higher suicide rate among veterinarians.
“As part of the Vetlife Steering Group, the BVA supports fantastic initiatives such as the 24-hour Vet Helpline for vets, vet nurses and veterinary students, and the Veterinary Benevolent Fund,” he said.
The BVA’s Member Services Group looks at practical initiatives to improve the day-to day lives of veterinarians. The recent introduction of services to resolve issues between veterinary employees and employers is an example of how the BVA supports its members in difficult times, Reilly said.
The Member Services Group created a sticker for display on medicine cabinets and in other places to remind veterinary staff that help is available.
“Ours is a small profession, and many vets will know a friend or colleague who has taken their own life. It is essential that this issue is kept in the open so that those who are struggling know where to turn for help,” Reilly said.
The paper, “Veterinary Surgeons and Suicide: A Structured Review of Possible Influences on Increased Risk,” appears in the March 27 edition of the Veterinary Record. It is available online at: http://press.psprings.co.uk/mp/march/suicide.pdf.
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