ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt.- Veterinarians are dying from suicide at an alarming rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and female veterinarians are particularly at risk: They are more than three times more likely to take their own lives than the general population.
“I know personal friends of mine who have called me and said ‘I’m going to kill myself tonight’,” said Dr. Erin Forbes, an associate at the Mountain View Animal Hospital in Essex Junction.
The CDC study, released in January, reviewed the deaths of nearly 12,000 veterinarians who died between the years of 1979 and 2015. Three-quarters of those who died from suicide worked at small practices.
Forbes says the job is emotionally driven. When animals in their care die, she said, “it’s really hard” on the vet and their staffs.
“You have to deal with staffing and deal with all the emotions of managing people as well,” she said.
Cyberbullying is also an issue, Forbes said. “We are human beings,” she said. “Everyone makes mistakes, but there is no reason to attack them.”
The issue of suicide inspired “Not One More Vet,” a nationwide campaign of peer-to-peer support for veterinarians. It involves ‘QPR’ training — question, persuade, refer.
“Unfortunately it did come in handy for me earlier this year, when I had a friend who was haiving a bit of a crisis. I was able to get her the help she needed,” she said.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or contact the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center.