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CDC study shows veterinarians at increased risk of suicide

Cleburne Times-Review - 1/4/2019

Jan. 03--Veterinarians in the U.S. are at an increased risk of suicide, a trend that has spanned more than three decades, according to a study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study is the first to show increased suicide mortality among female veterinarians. Female veterinarians were 3.5 times as likely, and male veterinarians were 2.1 times as likely, to die from suicide as the general population. Seventy-five percent of the veterinarians who died by suicide worked in a small animal practice.

"Our findings suggest mortality from suicide among veterinarians has been high for some time -- spanning the entire 36-year period we studied," CDC Director Robert Redfield said. "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."

Cleburne veterinarian Renee Brockett said there are many factors that contribute to veterinarian suicides.

"We go into veterinary medicine because we love animals, but unfortunately we can't save them all and that can wear you down mentally and emotionally," she said. "Often clients get very angry because we can't treat their pets for free. I've had many people say I'm in it only for the money, which couldn't be farther from the truth."

Brockett said the finances of becoming a veterinarian and running a clinic can be taxing on some.

"Vet care costs money, and operating a vet clinic is very expensive," she said. "Most practices are full service hospitals. [At Nolan River Animal Hospital] we have surgical equipment, radiology and ultrasound, in house lab, dental equipment -- the list goes on and on. We also have highly trained staff to pay.

"Add on our student loan debt -- currently four years of vet school costs well over $200,000 -- and our cost to provide medical care is astronomical. When you factor in what we actually make, the stress we experience can be overwhelming. I'm not saying the only factor is money, but it is a part of the puzzle."

Brockett said one of her worst days as a veterinarian was when she had to euthanize six sick pets in one day.

"Sometimes there is no amount of medicine and no amount of money that can make a pet better, but we can end their suffering," she said. "I can't even count the number of times a person tells me that they could never do what I do because they love animals too much. I gently remind them that I love animals too and that's why I can."

The American Veterinary Medical Association is working closely with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other suicidology experts to improve the health and welfare of veterinarians.

"Too many of our colleagues have either contemplated, attempted or died by suicide," AVMA President John de Jong said. "And, one suicide is clearly too many. Working with our colleagues throughout the veterinary community will help us find solutions more quickly. This issue is affecting not only our profession, but society as a whole, in numbers greater than ever before."


(c)2019 the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas)

Visit the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas) at www.cleburnetimesreview.com

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