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Explaining Suicidal Tendencies Among Veterinarians

Understanding Why Suicidal Tendencies are High in Veterinarians

This is a fact – Suicide rates are high amongst veterinarians.

Caution: Important but depressing information ahead. Read at your own risk but know that doing so means you care about your veterinarian’s mental health.

A few years ago, the global veterinary population sat up and took notice of a scholarly paper out of the UK.

Confirming the findings of previous UK research into high suicide rates among veterinarians, this new paper confirmed a two-fold increase in suicide when compared with human health care workers. (Six out of 16,000 every year.)

Distinguishing itself from previous work, this paper delved deeper by attempting to determine the cause of the human-animal discrepancy.

So why exactly is it that UK veterinarians kill themselves at such alarming rates relative to human health workers? And can the same figures be extrapolated to US veterinarians, or might we be somewhat more immune to the lifestyle stressors and psychological makeup that seems to predispose us to suicidal behavior?

Turns out UK and US veterinary issues are pretty similar.

Here’s what the paper proposes as an explanation for why veterinarians suffer increased suicidal tendencies:

It remains to be seen whether US vets will succumb to the same high rates, but current reports suggest we’re not too far off.

Given the higher financial stresses of being a veterinarian in the US (the high debt to income ratio among younger veterinarians is absolutely staggering!), it only makes sense that we’d suffer rates of suicide on par with our UK cousins.

In any case, it’s clear that the veterinary profession needs to take steps to address the suicide triggers all veterinarians appear to be laboring under.

Unfortunately, however, precious little has been done to intervene to better understand, identify, and prevent suicide in veterinarians. Here’s hoping the global veterinary community does more than gawk at findings that deserve more than mere acknowledgement.