Saturday, December 22, 2018

Female veterinarians have a much higher suicide rate. Is euthanasia a factor?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

According to new a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association that examined the deaths of veterinarians from 1979 to 2015, veterinarians have a much higher suicide than members of the general population.

Death records from 11,620 veterinarians between 1979 and 2015 showed that at least 398 veterinarians died by suicide during this time period. 

The suicide rate for veterinarians is far higher than the national average but the suicide rate for female veterinarians is even more concerning. The study indicates that compared to the general population, male veterinarians were 2.1 times more likely and female veterinarians were 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide.

The study listed many risk factors for suicide including “long work hours, work overload, practice management responsibilities, client expectations and complaints, euthanasia procedures, and poor work-life balance.”

There are multiple contributing factors to the high suicide rate among veterinarians. The study explains why the practice of euthanasia is a risk factor. According to the study:
veterinarians are trained to view euthanasia as an acceptable method to relieve suffering in animals, which can affect the way veterinarians view human life, including a reduced fear about death, especially among those experiencing suicidal ideation.
The study found that access to euthanasia drugs is also a risk factor leading to higher suicide rates. The study explains that veterinarians are 2.5 times more likely to use lethal drugs for suicide than the general population. The use and access to euthanasia drugs contribute to veterinarians having a much higher suicide rate.

I wonder if the recent acceptance of euthanasia in Canada will lead to a higher suicide rate in the general population and an even higher suicide rate among physicians who participate in euthanasia?

Suicide is always a tragedy and it is preventable.

If you are experiencing suicidal ideation, contact a suicide prevention hotline immediately. 

Speak to someone, don't suffer in silence.

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