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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To explore associations between demographic, occupational, and mental health characteristics and negative attitudes toward mental illness among veterinarians.

DESIGN

Cross-sectional survey.

SAMPLE

9,522 veterinarians employed in the United States.

PROCEDURES

Data from a previously conducted voluntary, anonymous, web-based survey were used. Negative attitude was defined as slight or strong disagreement with 2 statements: “Treatment can help people with mental illness lead normal lives” (treatment effectiveness) and “People are generally caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness” (social support). Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify variables associated with negative attitudes.

RESULTS

Of the 9,522 respondents, 6,585 (69.2%) were female, 4,523 (47.5%) were 40 to 59 years old, 291 (3.1%) had a negative attitude toward treatment effectiveness, and 4,504 (47.3%) had a negative attitude toward social support. After adjusting for other variables, negative attitude toward treatment effectiveness was significantly more likely in males, those with 10 to 19 (vs 1 to 9) years of practice experience, solo practitioners, those in government (vs “other”) practice, those with evidence of serious psychological distress, and those reporting suicidal ideation after veterinary school and significantly less likely in those receiving mental health treatment. A negative attitude toward social support was significantly less likely in males and significantly more likely in 40 to 59 (vs 20 to 39) year olds, childless respondents, solo practitioners, those without membership in a veterinary association, those with evidence of serious psychological distress, those reporting depression during or after veterinary school, and those reporting suicidal ideation after veterinary school.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Characteristics such as age, sex, practice setting, and mental illness history might be useful to consider when targeting interventions to support and educate veterinarians about mental illness.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the prevalence of suicide risk factors, attitudes toward mental illness, and practice-related stressors among US veterinarians.

Design—Cross-sectional survey.

Sample—11,627 US veterinarians.

Procedures—Between July 1 and October 20, 2014, a Web-based questionnaire was made available through the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), VIN News Service, JAVMA News, and email messages to US veterinarians sent by a veterinary medical association, agriculture or livestock department, or health department of each state (except Maine) and Puerto Rico.

Results—Of 11,627 respondents, 3,628 (31%) were male. Modal age category was 30 to 39 years, and modal range for years practicing veterinary medicine was 10 to 19 years. There were 7,460 (64%) respondents who primarily practiced small animal medicine, and 4,224 (36%) who were practice owners. There were 1,077 (9%) respondents with current serious psychological distress. Since leaving veterinary school, 3,655 (31%) respondents experienced depressive episodes, 1,952 (17%) experienced suicidal ideation, and 157 (1%) attempted suicide. Currently, 2,228 (19%) respondents were receiving treatment for a mental health condition. Only 3,250 of 10,220 (32%) respondents somewhat or strongly agreed that people are sympathetic toward persons with mental illness. The most commonly reported practice-related stressor was demands of practice.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In this survey, approximately 1 in 11 veterinarians had serious psychological distress and 1 in 6 experienced suicidal ideation since leaving veterinary school. Implementing measures to help veterinarians cope with practice-related stressors and reducing barriers veterinarians face in seeking mental health treatment might reduce the risk for suicide among veterinarians.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association