Suicides and deaths of undetermined intent among veterinary professionals from 2003 through 2014

Tracy K. Witte 1Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.

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Elizabeth G. Spitzer 1Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.

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Nicole Edwards 2Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, 1095 Willowdale Rd, Morgantown, WV 26505.

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Katherine A. Fowler 3Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341.

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Randall J. Nett 2Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, 1095 Willowdale Rd, Morgantown, WV 26505.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To analyze data for death of veterinary professionals and veterinary students, with manner of death characterized as suicide or undetermined intent from 2003 through 2014.

SAMPLE

Death records for 202 veterinary professionals and veterinary students.

PROCEDURES

Decedents employed as veterinarians, veterinary technicians or technologists, or veterinary assistants or laboratory animal caretakers and veterinary students who died by suicide or of undetermined intent were identified through retrospective review of National Violent Death Reporting System records. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated, and mechanisms and circumstances of death were compared among veterinary occupational groups.

RESULTS

197 veterinary professionals and 5 veterinary students had deaths by suicide or of undetermined intent. Among decedents employed at the time of death, SMRs for suicide of male and female veterinarians (1.6 and 2.4, respectively) and male and female veterinary technicians or technologists (5.0 and 2.3, respectively) were significantly greater than those for the general US population, whereas SMRs for suicide of male and female veterinary assistants or laboratory animal caretakers were not. Poisoning was the most common mechanism of death among veterinarians; the drug most commonly used was pentobarbital. For most (13/18) veterinarians who died of pentobarbital poisoning, the death-related injury occurred at home. When decedents with pentobarbital poisoning were excluded from analyses, SMRs for suicide of male and female veterinarians, but not veterinary technicians or technologists, did not differ significantly from results for the general population.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results suggested higher SMRs for suicide among veterinarians might be attributable to pentobarbital access. Improving administrative controls for pentobarbital might be a promising suicide prevention strategy among veterinarians; however, different strategies are likely needed for veterinary technicians or technologists.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To analyze data for death of veterinary professionals and veterinary students, with manner of death characterized as suicide or undetermined intent from 2003 through 2014.

SAMPLE

Death records for 202 veterinary professionals and veterinary students.

PROCEDURES

Decedents employed as veterinarians, veterinary technicians or technologists, or veterinary assistants or laboratory animal caretakers and veterinary students who died by suicide or of undetermined intent were identified through retrospective review of National Violent Death Reporting System records. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated, and mechanisms and circumstances of death were compared among veterinary occupational groups.

RESULTS

197 veterinary professionals and 5 veterinary students had deaths by suicide or of undetermined intent. Among decedents employed at the time of death, SMRs for suicide of male and female veterinarians (1.6 and 2.4, respectively) and male and female veterinary technicians or technologists (5.0 and 2.3, respectively) were significantly greater than those for the general US population, whereas SMRs for suicide of male and female veterinary assistants or laboratory animal caretakers were not. Poisoning was the most common mechanism of death among veterinarians; the drug most commonly used was pentobarbital. For most (13/18) veterinarians who died of pentobarbital poisoning, the death-related injury occurred at home. When decedents with pentobarbital poisoning were excluded from analyses, SMRs for suicide of male and female veterinarians, but not veterinary technicians or technologists, did not differ significantly from results for the general population.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results suggested higher SMRs for suicide among veterinarians might be attributable to pentobarbital access. Improving administrative controls for pentobarbital might be a promising suicide prevention strategy among veterinarians; however, different strategies are likely needed for veterinary technicians or technologists.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Table S1 (PDF 70 kb)
    • Supplementary Table S2 (PDF 65 kb)
    • Supplementary Table S3 (PDF 62 kb)
    • Supplementary Table S4 (PDF 67 kb)
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