Back when I began vet school, over 20 years ago, I remember sitting in orientation events and listening to the administration talk to us about the challenges we would face during the four years to come. We were encouraged to create study plans, study groups, and to prioritize our time. Even then, they said, not all of us would make it through to graduation. They were right.
Then, almost as an afterthought, they added that veterinarians are in the top three of professionals most likely to commit suicide; so we needed to be aware of that.
Wait. What? WHAT?!
Tragically, they were right about that too.
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. The risk continues to be very real for veterinary professionals. The number of veterinarians who have contemplated suicide is 1 in 6, and those who have attempted suicide is 1 in 10. This epidemic impacts us all.
Thankfully, our profession has found its voice and is speaking out against this tragedy. Resources continue to be developed to help us deal with the factors that contribute to this terminal decision including:
- Incorporation of courses on stress management and self care into the veterinary school curricula
- Development of a LinkedIn community open to AVMA and SAVMA members dedicated to Veterinary Wellness and Well-being (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8577960)
- Creating of VetLife in the UK support veterinarians by phone and email around the clock (https://www.vetlife.org.uk)
- Self assessment and other resources provided at no charge by the AVMA (https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Personal/PeerAndWellness/Pages/default.aspx)
- Availability of private peer groups, such as Not One More Vet
- Gatekeeper suicide prevention training pilot program for veterinarians and veterinary students sponsored by the AVMA, AVMA LIFE and AVMA PLIT (https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Personal/PeerAndWellness/Pages/Wellness-Gatekeeper-Training-for-Veterinarians.aspx)
My hope is that together we can get our beloved profession off of this terrible top-ten list. It will take all of us listening, speaking out, staying aware, and reporting when needed.
Think you aren’t qualified to help? Think again! Check out QPR training to learn how to Question, Persuade and Refer.
Suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem. There is help available. You are not alone.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Need help right now? Please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7/365 at 1-800-273-8255.
Know of additional resources designed to help the veterinary community to combat suicide? Please share in the comments.