To explore associations between demographic, occupational, and mental health characteristics and negative attitudes toward mental illness among veterinarians.
9,522 veterinarians employed in the United States.
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.
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.
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.
In a recent study of suicides and deaths of uncertain intent among US veterinary professionals, Witte et al1 found that for 34 of 73 (47%) veterinarians, the mechanism of death was classified as poisoning, with 18 of those 34 deaths (or 25% of the total) attributed to pentobarbital, the active ingredient in euthanasia solutions. Even more troubling, for 13 of the 18 deaths attributed to pentobarbital poisoning, the death-related injury occurred at home. Although data were not available on where or how the pentobarbital was procured, it seems likely that in some, if not all, of these cases,
OBJECTIVE To develop a comprehensive taxonomy of practice-related stressors experienced by US veterinarians.
DESIGN Cross-sectional survey.
SAMPLE A subset of 1,422 US veterinarians who provided written (vs selected) responses to a question in a previous survey regarding practice-related stressors.
PROCEDURES Using grounded theory analysis, 3 researchers inductively analyzed written survey responses concerning respondents’ main practice-related stressors. In 5 iterations, responses were individually coded and categorized, and a final list of practice-related stressor categories and subcategories was iteratively and collaboratively developed until theoretical and analytic saturation of the data was achieved.
RESULTS A taxonomy of 15 categories of broad practice-related stressors and 40 subcategories of more specific practice-related stressors was developed. The most common practice-related stressor categories included financial insecurity (n = 289 [20.3%]), client issues (254 [17.9%]), coworker or interpersonal issues (181 [12.7%]), and work-life balance (166 [11.7%]). The most common subcategories were clients unwilling to pay (118 [8.3%]), low income (98 [6.9%]), cost of maintaining practice (56 [3.9%]), and government or state board policies (48 [3.4%]).
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE This study provided a comprehensive list of the types of practice-related stressors experienced by US veterinarians, building a foundation for future research into relationships between job stress and mental health in this population. Frequency data on the various stressors provided an initial understanding of factors that might be contributing to high stress rates among US veterinarians.
OBJECTIVE To assess proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) for suicide among male and female US veterinarians from 1979 through 2015.
DESIGN PMR study.
SAMPLE Death records for 11,620 veterinarians.
PROCEDURES Information for veterinarians who died during 1979 through 2015 was obtained from AVMA obituary and life insurance databases and submitted to a centralized database of US death records to obtain underlying causes of death. Decedent data that met records-matching criteria were imported into a software program for calculation of PMRs for suicide stratified by sex and indirectly standardized for age, race, and 5-year calendar period with 95% confidence intervals.
RESULTS 398 deaths resulted from suicide; 326 (82%) decedents were male, 72 (18%) were female, and most (298 [75%]) were ≤ 65 years of age. The PMRs for suicide for all veterinarian decedents (2.1 and 3.5 for males and females, respectively), those in clinical positions (2.2 and 3.4 for males and females, respectively), and those in nonclinical positions (1.8 and 5.0 for males and females, respectively) were significantly higher than for the general US population. Among female veterinarians, the percentage of deaths by suicide was stable from 2000 until the end of the study, but the number of such deaths subjectively increased with each 5-year period.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results of the study indicated that PMRs for suicide of female as well as male veterinarians were higher than for the general population. These data may help to inform stakeholders in the creation and implementation of suicide prevention strategies designed for veterinarians.
To assess proportionate mortality from all causes for male and female US veterinarians during 1979 through 2015.
Death records for 11,620 veterinarians.
For this proportionate mortality ratio (PMR) study, information for veterinarians who died during 1979 through 2015 was obtained from AVMA obituary and life insurance databases and submitted to a centralized database of US death records to obtain underlying causes of death. Decedent data that met records-matching criteria were imported into a software program for calculation of PMRs for all causes stratified by sex and indirectly standardized for age, race, and 5-year calendar period with 95% CIs.
11,620 decedents consisted of 11,049 (95%) males and 571 (5%) females with a median age at death of 77 years. Proportionate mortality for all veterinarian decedents was higher than expected for melanoma (PMRs, 2.1 and 2.2 for males and females, respectively), suicide (PMRs, 2.1 and 3.5 for males and females, respectively), and transportation injuries (PMRs, 1.7 and 1.6 for males and females, respectively). Proportionate mortality for all decedents was lower than expected for respiratory cancers (PMRs, 0.6 and 0.5 for males and females, respectively), diabetes mellitus (PMRs, 0.7 and 0.4 for males and females, respectively), heart disease (PMRs, 0.9 and 0.6 for males and females, respectively), and respiratory disorders (PMRs, 0.7 and 0.6 for males and females, respectively).
Results indicated proportionate mortality from malignant melanoma, transportation injuries, and suicide for male and female veterinarians was higher than the general population. These data may help stakeholders improve veterinarian workplace safety and health guidelines.
Objective—To describe the epizootiological investigation of an outbreak of Q fever (Coxiella burnetii infection).
Animals—17 goat herds in Washington, Montana, and Oregon.
Procedures—In April 2011, an abortion storm at a commercial goat farm in Washington was determined to be caused by C burnetii. A joint epidemiological investigation by public health and veterinary professionals was subsequently performed to assess the extent of the outbreak by performing a trace-forward of goats sold from the index farm, to determine risk factors associated with infection, and to implement control measures. A herd management plan was developed to control the outbreak and reduce risk of human exposure. Quarantine and temporary holds preventing the sale or movement of goats allowed time for trace-forward investigation, education of farmers regarding disease risk, and testing to determine the scope of the outbreak.
Results—17 farms were affected; 21 human Q fever cases were identified. Bacterial shedding in feces, vaginal fluid, or milk was confirmed in 156 of 629 (25%) goats tested by PCR assay. Seroprevalence of antibodies against C burnetii in goats, determined by ELISA, was 12%. The risk for C burnetii infection in goats was highest among females, those on farms associated with human Q fever, and those on Washington farms. A protective effect was observed for goats at farms where the primary form of goat carcass disposal was burial.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—This outbreak illustrated the importance of a joint investigation for zoonotic pathogens and the need to expand and strengthen relationships between medical, public health, and veterinary partners. Heightened awareness and enhanced veterinary diagnostic capabilities for C burnetii are needed to identify and control outbreaks expediently.
Objective—To evaluate the prevalence of suicide risk factors, attitudes toward mental illness, and practice-related stressors among US veterinarians.
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.