Veterinarians are at higher risk of suicide, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study finds female veterinarians are 3.5 times as likely to take their own lives, and male vets were more than 2 times more likely that the general population.
75 percent of the veterinarians who died by suicide worked at a small animal practice. Most vets work long hours, struggle with balancing work and home life and have access to euthanasia.
Since 2000, the proportion of female veterinarians who died by suicide has remained stable at 10 percent; however, the number of deaths has increased steadily. An earlier study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found female veterinarians have a higher prevalence of risk factors for suicide including experiencing depression and suicide ideation and attempts. Today, more than 60 percent of U.S. veterinarians are women. In 2017, of the 110,531 veterinarians in the U.S, 66,731 were female and 43,662 were male.
“Our findings suggest mortality from suicide among veterinarians has been high for some time — spanning the entire 36-year period we studied,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “This study shines a light on a complex issue in this profession. Using this knowledge, we can work together to reduce the number of suicides among veterinarians.”
Dr. Justin Toth is a veterinarian at Dallas Highway Animal Hospital and is with the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association. He says, “in the two plus decades I've been practicing I have known several colleagues who have taken their own lives."
He says better suicide prevention programs are needed within the profession.