So Strong; yet so calm: Mary's Choice.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Impaired Veterinarian: Recognizing Depression & Possible Suicide | Veterinary Team Brief

Weird coming across this article about the "impaired veterinarian" the very same day I felt the need bringing up in a conversation I was having with a friend,  the results of this very same study done in the U.K. and what it seemed to be implying about the veterinary profession.    And it had been at least 3 years since reading the original article about UK veterinarians having a higher suicide rate than the normal population...while working as a relief veterinarian at Beaver Crossing Animal Hospital.

The Impaired Veterinarian: Recognizing Depression & Possible Suicide | Veterinary Team Brief: So when a study reported that UK veterinarians had a higher suicide rate than the normal population—up to 4 times higher than the general population and 2 times higher than healthcare professionals—it rocked our veterinary community. Then the story went viral and global (receiving broadcast media attention),2-6 putting veterinary schools, the AVMA, on alert.

In a recent study, authors surveyed SCAVMA members, licensed Alabama veterinarians, and U.S. veterinary association executive directors. The results? Depressing.

Of those surveyed, 88% to 96% believed that veterinary medicine is very stressful, with stress increasing over the past 10 years; 19% of veterinary students had been diagnosed with mental illness and 40.7% had a family history of drug addiction or alcoholism; 95% of executive directors believed there is a serious problem of burnout, and 40% knew of one or more veterinarians who had committed suicide in the previous 3 years.


As a profession, we need to acknowledge the factors that potentially put veterinarians at higher risk for suicide:
  • Our workaholic, high-achieving personality types with such potential traits as neurosis, conscientiousness, and perfectionism (which are all risk factors for suicidal behaviors).
  • Our high-stress level, beginning with attempts to enter veterinary school; the pressure to succeed in school, graduate training, and a work environment with intense psychological demands and expectations from employers and clients; long working hours; poor pay compared with our human medicine counterparts; significant financial debt; poor support networks; high likelihood of burnout ... the list goes on, right?
  • Our belief in quality of life and the concept of humane euthanasia to alleviate suffering—with ready access to these drugs.
  • The isolation encountered by many veterinarians, working solo with few outlets for healthy commiseration.


Downside for Veterinarians Down Under


Researchers again found links between a career in veterinary medicine and adverse effects on mental health and, again, young female veterinarians were found to be most at risk. The authors noted that veterinarians are facing burnout in as little as 5 years after graduation.

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