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.
Death records for 202 veterinary professionals and veterinary students.
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.
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.