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 compare the prevalence of negative mental health outcomes among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and asexual (LGBTQ+) veterinary professionals and students with the prevalence reported in a previous study of veterinarians; compare LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals and students in regard to access to LGBTQ+ policies and resources, workplace or school climate, and identity disclosure; and examine whether these variables were associated with mental health (eg, psychological distress) or work- and school-related (eg, emotional labor) outcomes.
440 LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals and students in the United States and United Kingdom.
Between July and December 2016, a web-based questionnaire was distributed through email messages to members of LGBTQ+ veterinary groups and announcements at general veterinary and LGBTQ+-focused conferences and in newsletters.
Nonheterosexual cis men, nonheterosexual cis women, and transgender and nonbinary individuals all had higher lifetime prevalences of suicidal ideation and attempted suicide, compared with previously reported prevalences for male and female veterinarians in general. Professionals reported more welcoming climates than did students (eg, lower frequency of exposure to homophobic language and more supportive environments) and greater identity disclosure; however, students reported greater access to institutional resources and policies. Climate variables had a more robust relationship with negative outcomes than did access to LGBTQ+ policies or identity disclosure variables.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE
Comparatively high rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among LGBTQ+ professionals and students and the relationship between climate variables and negative mental health outcomes suggested enhanced efforts are needed to improve the climates in veterinary workplaces and colleges.
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 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.