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Study says there is an increase in suicide deaths among veterinarians

Posted at 6:11 AM, Sep 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-16 11:08:24-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - They care for our pets, and sometimes even save their lives, but a new study suggests veterinarians need more help from us.

A study published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found there is a "higher than expected number of suicide deaths among veterinarians."

The study found female veterinarians were "3.5 times as likely, and males were 2.1 times as likely, to die from suicide as the general population."

It also found that since the year 2000," the proportion of female veterinarians who died by suicide remained stable at 10 percent."

The study found several factors can play a role in the increase for suicides among veterinarians.

Those factors include work overload, increasing debt, poor work-life balance, and access to euthanasia solution used for animals.

Alexa Hollingsworth, a veterinarian at the Pima Animal Care Center, has been doing the job for less than a year, but she says the amount of responsibilities can weigh on a person.

“We triage all day, emergency that may be transfers from other surrounding clinics, and we triage our in patients that are often dropped off from the community as strays or surrenders, and then we go through fosters. So we have I think over 1000 animals in foster, majority need followers-up medical care so we have appointments to see them throughout the day as well as routine say and neuter and other more elective type surgeries," said Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth said during her time in veterinary school, mental health was talked about a lot and always brought up, which is why she always makes sure her techs are doing OK.

Because of the suicide rate increase among veterinarians, the 'Not One More Vet' group was formed. The Facebook group is meant to serve as a space where veterinarians can talk to someone who is also in the field and might know what they are going through.

Melanie Goble, who sits on the board for the 'Not One More Vet' group said she's heard from veterinarians from across the country.

"Sometimes it's hey, this situation happened how should I handle it. what did i do wrong, how can I improve, sometimes it is my relationships outside of veterinary medicine are falling apart, I don't know what to do, how do I deal with it," said Goble.

Blue Pearl Veterinary, which has five hospitals in Arizona, is also working on tackling mental health problems by having social workers in their hospitals.

“We’re developing a regional social work structure, which means each region where our hospitals are located will have their own social workers," said Lori Harbert.

Harbert said Blue Pearl is currently working on hiring social workers but they expect to have them trained and in their hospitals within the next year.