that70sfan11

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I hate starting a thread about this, but the thread search function isn't working and considering it was a top story on CNN, I thought it needed to be addressed. and ignoring the problem isn't going to help it, don't you agree?

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/03/26/england.veterinarians.suicide/index.html?hpt=T2

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Group appears to be four times as likely to commit suicide as general public
  • High stress, ready access to lethal drugs may be among factors
  • Researcher says every country that has done research has found high risk
  • Some veterinarians say rewards of job can counter struggles
it also mentions how vets have to deal with clients who aren't willing to pay the money to save an animal, and this can be heart-breaking for a person who believe their job was supposed to be about saving animals

anyway, again sorry for being a bummer, but it's still an issue we all may face with our colleagues or ourselves someday
 

luplodw

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I read a book that addressed this....its kind of a scary idea! You just have to make sure to surround yourself with supportive loving people and don't be afraid to get help or to talk to people
 

that70sfan11

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not to be self-glorifying, but I do think us pre-vets and vets deserve a nice pat on the back! :thumbup: for all we do and have to go through, we really aren't paid that spectacularly at all. and we STILL deal with people who call all vets in general greedy

I would honestly put vets in the same categories of jobs like firefighters, policemen and women, teachers, etc. because you really have to love what you are doing in order for those careers to be rewarding, IMO
 

Morganator

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Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time linking suicide to one's profession. If it's that bad, do something else for a living. There's a lot of opportunities out there for people with DVM's. BTW, I'm not saying that being a veterinarian can't be a stressful profession, but there are options of working in different types of practices/industry/education/etc. I just think that the person is responsible, not the career. Same to be said about any other career choice (dentists come to mind).
 

Nexx

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Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time linking suicide to one's profession. If it's that bad, do something else for a living. There's a lot of opportunities out there for people with DVM's. BTW, I'm not saying that being a veterinarian can't be a stressful profession, but there are options of working in different types of practices/industry/education/etc. I just think that the person is responsible, not the career. Same to be said about any other career choice (dentists come to mind).
You're right... in a sense, it is about the person. However, it isn't like people plan years in advance for depression and suicide. It slowly creeps up on them and by the time things get 'bad' it isn't like they are in the mindset to say 'hey, time for a career change' -- that's pretty much the reason for suicide, the thought that life isn't getting any better and there's nothing anyone can do about it, so it may as well end.

Anyhow there is also supposed to be a study coming out at some point about the veterinary industry being a profession that many people who are victims of abuse (physical, psychological, emotional, etc) are drawn towards. I think the main focus of the study is veterinary support staff, but there's also no reason to think it can't extend into a percentage of veterinarians as well -- (note: I'm HIGHLY paraphrasing here based on year-old information on this topic)
 

livvie

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by the time things get 'bad' it isn't like they are in the mindset to say 'hey, time for a career change'
And as a career changer myself, career changing, especially when you're making a decent salary, is a very scary prospect that can be highly stressful and depressing on its own - it's very easy to feel that you don't have the skills to make it in another field, or that you worked so hard to get to this point, you can't leave. It's much easier to stay in a job you hate for years rather than take a jump into the unknown. When I finally did leave my job, people were shocked and said I was much braver than they would have been. (Obviously people should leave the profession rather than consider suicide, but I understand why it's a difficult thing to do)

Also, random, I mentioned the high suicide rate in my personal statement. It was along the veins of "I know what I'm getting into."

Another random fact - apparently dentists have a higher suicide rate than vets.
 
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Tricolorbadness

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Speaking from experience it's much easier to stay in a job you hate for years rather than take a jump into the unknown.
Ditto this. As a non-trad, I know a number of people that I currently work with that would like to do something else but just can't see (in their opinion) tossing away years in a profession they chose, despite being miserable.

I admit I am a little nervous making this leap myself (from my current full-time, well-paying position to student status, additional debt and a totally new career field), but I am determined to finally do what I've always wanted to do and not what I 'have' to do.
 

Angelus9

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Can anyone provide information about this? I'd read that this is also true, not only in the UK, but in Australia and/or New Zealand as well, however, it is not true for the USA, that in the U.S. veterinarians have a high rate of being happy in their jobs, especially when compared to those in the human medical professions.

And I wondered if this had anything to do with that in the U.S. you start later, after 4 years of undergraduate work. I used to think it made sense to start earlier - you want to be a vet, and if these non-U.S. countries have tougher "high schools" - great, be a vet by the time you're 22-23 - it makes so much more sense, but now I'm wondering if there's a correlation between going into this high-pressure career without the extra four years of broad-based (and some vet students would say annoying and irrelevant :laugh:) schooling...but maybe it helps in the long run. Maybe by simply allowing more people to decide that vet school is NOT for them.

Any thoughts?
 

nitheninny

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According to "Tell Me Where It Hurts" by Dr. Nick Trout:

"According to Professor Richard Halliwell of the British Veterinary Surgeons... veterinarian suicide rates are nearly four times the national UK average... peer-reviewed scientific articles have found a significantly increased risk for suicide in California veterinarians and in a ten-year period in Western Australia, one in five veterinarians who died did so by taking their own life."

I read this book on my way to Kansas (I believe) for an interview, and I remember reading that part of the book and just... staring. It had never even occurred to me, but it is true: as veterinarians, we will have easy access and knowledge of how to use drugs which will guarantee a painless death. If nothing else, I would imagine that would boost the rates.

It's scary to think about, but it really does stress how important it is to have a good support system throughout your life and the importance of not getting swallowed up by veterinary medicine and forgetting to do other things that make you happy and relieve that stress.
 

Whyevernot55

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It's a scary topic, and it hits close to home - I've known two vets who took their own lives, and have heard more than enough "friend of a friend" stories to last a long time. My own boss has suffered alcoholism, depression, and bankruptcy since she began practicing, and has been near that point.

As everyone else has said, it's so important to have things OTHER than vet med in your life. I think there's less of a support system for veterinarians than there is for human doctors in terms of grief counseling and wider understanding.

Angelus9, I think you make a good point about the "extra" years of undergrad work. Personally, I came a circuitous route through my English degree. If I went back, I wouldn't change that. Having other interests, and those 4 years of NOT being stressed about getting into vet school and doing as much in that field as possible makes me perfectly happy. Just the past year of applications and interviews and waiting to hear has made me so stressed out that I have migraines again! I can't imagine trying to deal with this stress at the maturity level I had at 19 or 20 years old, and I was a pretty mature college kid. Yikes!
 

aspiringDVM

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I would also like to point out that in addition to easy access to lethal drugs/euthanasia solution, as a profession we are accustomed to using these drugs as a means of ending suffering. I certainly think that the capacity to provide a merciful death is a wonderful thing, but the attitude toward and use of euthanasia on a regular basis has the potential to screw with the psychology of a person who is already depressed, overstressed, or mentally ill.
 

nyanko

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I've personally heard a number of people express an interest to go into vet school because they want to "work with animals and not people". I'd imagine anyone who doesn't like dealing with people is much more likely to be depressed than a social person. I'd also venture to guess that they would not have the support system most people have nor would they be likely to seek help. Ergo, higher suicide rate.
The types of pre-vets who want to be a vet because they don't like dealing with people rarely even get to the application stage, nevermind being accepted and actually completing the degree. The US vet school admissions process puts far more of an emphasis on experience and understanding the profession than other health-related professional school processes, from what I can see.

This may not be true in other countries though, where vet school is an undergraduate program.

edit: I've often said that if I ever become terminally ill with very little chance for recovery after having a DVM degree, I would likely go for the pink juice myself. And I mean it. ;)
 
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edit: I've often said that if I ever become terminally ill with very little chance for recovery after having a DVM degree, I would likely go for the pink juice myself. And I mean it. ;)
I concur.

I also agree with Susan Sundberg, one of the vets they interviewed, when she points to the fact that vets often go from birth to death with their patients. Because vets typically outlive their patients many times over, they actually have to deal with patient death much more often than a typical MD might. Moreover, since a relationship with a patient often spans the patient's entire lifetime, vets witness the deaths of animals that they have grown close to on a regular basis.

This is also combined with ready access to lethal drugs, as most small practices are combined hospitals and pharmacies. Vets working in a small practice can often just open a cupboard and pull out the pink juice. An MD, in contrast, would typically have to write and fill a prescription or obtain lethal meds from a dispensary that is controlled by staff, so a suicide attempt using lethal drugs would require a great deal more premeditation.
 

purplesaurus

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It's a scary topic, and it hits close to home - I've known two vets who took their own lives, and have heard more than enough "friend of a friend" stories to last a long time. My own boss has suffered alcoholism, depression, and bankruptcy since she began practicing, and has been near that point.

As everyone else has said, it's so important to have things OTHER than vet med in your life. I think there's less of a support system for veterinarians than there is for human doctors in terms of grief counseling and wider understanding.

Angelus9, I think you make a good point about the "extra" years of undergrad work. Personally, I came a circuitous route through my English degree. If I went back, I wouldn't change that. Having other interests, and those 4 years of NOT being stressed about getting into vet school and doing as much in that field as possible makes me perfectly happy. Just the past year of applications and interviews and waiting to hear has made me so stressed out that I have migraines again! I can't imagine trying to deal with this stress at the maturity level I had at 19 or 20 years old, and I was a pretty mature college kid. Yikes!
This is why I am always telling people that you need time to take care of yourself, too, especially (imho; obviously not a vet, yet!) in these sort of "life-style" careers where the line between Working and Not Working can often become blurred.

The rebuttal is always "But that's so selfish!" My reply is you can't care for anyone if you are having a mental breakdown (and could possibly do harm as a vet, if you are not mentally all there) or dead. However, this is a lesson I've had to learn the hard way. Fortunately, I did learn from it, and I feel I am more healthy and better able to deal with stress as a result.


I could see another part contributing to the stress/potential depression of being a vet vs. other health professions that treat people. If a doctor has a patient who refuses to follow proper treatment instructions, he can say (to himself, at least, after telling his patient about the consequences, etc.), "Well, you are doing it to yourself." However, when it comes to a client and their pet, the pet isn't able to decide, "I want to follow this course of treatment" or "I don't think that's right for me, personally." (eta: Of course, the pets also can't say what is wrong themselves [or we just can't understand how they communicate it], so it's a balance.)

Hm, I could see that as an issue in pediatrics, too, especially with very young children.
 
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Hm, I could see that as an issue in pediatrics, too, especially with very young children.
One error in methodology I've noticed with studies like this is that they never break down each "health profession" into subdisciplines, instead appearing to divide things up by post-nominals alone (All MDs/DOs together, all DVMs together, all DDS' together, etc.). Working conditions between subdisciplines are totally different, though. For example, a dermatologist probably has an easier time emotionally than a oncologist. Without a breakdown, it's difficult to draw conclusions by comparing between categories, because "Physician" is way too broad a category to be taken all at once.
 

ckd816

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I think it's interesting that they point out that the people who tend to go into vet med are the overachiever perfectionist type, so they already have these suicide risk factors... So maybe it's not entirely the profession that leads to these statistics, but more the personality types. Obviously there is a trend linking these personalities to people who often become vets and I'm sure the job contributes in many ways, but I don't think it's fair to say the job alone has caused these people to resort to suicide.
 

purplesaurus

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I think it's interesting that they point out that the people who tend to go into vet med are the overachiever perfectionist type, so they already have these suicide risk factors... So maybe it's not entirely the profession that leads to these statistics, but more the personality types. Obviously there is a trend linking these personalities to people who often become vets and I'm sure the job contributes in many ways, but I don't think it's fair to say the job alone has caused these people to resort to suicide.
I'm sure you're right and there is some amount of interaction here.


@Tiktaalik: You also bring up a good point. I wonder what the rates would look like if you broke DVMs into specialties, SA vs. LA vs. exotic clinics, etc.
 

that redhead

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As everyone else has said, it's so important to have things OTHER than vet med in your life.
This was the advice given by my boss to one of my friends who went away to Ross in January. This is something I will probably plug quite a bit in my PS/interview (if such a miracle occurs!). I don't have stellar grades, but I've made a real effort to do things other than study study study. I don't mean to take away from those applicants who have worked so hard for their amazing grades, but if I had spent my undergraduate years striving for a 4.0, I wouldn't be who I am today. I like to think my non-academic strengths are what will make me a good vet, not the grades on my transcript.

(disclaimer: I still understand the importance of grades ;))
 
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This was the advice given by my boss to one of my friends who went away to Ross in January. This is something I will probably plug quite a bit in my PS/interview (if such a miracle occurs!). I don't have stellar grades, but I've made a real effort to do things other than study study study. I don't mean to take away from those applicants who have worked so hard for their amazing grades, but if I had spent my undergraduate years striving for a 4.0, I wouldn't be who I am today. I like to think my non-academic strengths are what will make me a good vet, not the grades on my transcript.

(disclaimer: I still understand the importance of grades ;))
I got into vet school this year on my first try with a 3.14 GPA and this was pretty much my argument. I spent a lot of time traveling abroad and having real once in a lifetime experiences. It totally changed me and how I view the world/interact with people and I really stressed that in one of my essays (had to write 5) as well as the extracurriculars I did to stay involved in my community. We also talked a lot about it in my interview.

I just took full responsibility for some of my crappy grades and followed up by talking about how much I had learned from those experiences, etc. They really liked it and we ended up detouring into a conversation about my favorite places in various countries I had visited. I think they really liked that I was so passionate about outside activities and not tied to my desk 24/7. Grades are important but they aren't everything!
 

StartingoverVet

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I think it's interesting that they point out that the people who tend to go into vet med are the overachiever perfectionist type, so they already have these suicide risk factors... So maybe it's not entirely the profession that leads to these statistics, but more the personality types. Obviously there is a trend linking these personalities to people who often become vets and I'm sure the job contributes in many ways, but I don't think it's fair to say the job alone has caused these people to resort to suicide.
Still, plenty of professions attract overachievers and the article implies the rate is much higher for vet med. That leaves some unaccounted for difference.

Although it was a little depressing to read this, it made me think. I come from a profession full of type A, overachiever, perfectionists. I don't think I have heard even once in 20 years of a suicide attempt (and news travels quick). My ugly analysis: The people in my former profession pretty much don't care about other people and take out their frustrations on anyone else around them. Or they drink VERY heavily or they ABUSE drugs.

Most of the people in vet med seem to be pretty considerate and caring people. Makes me wonder if that is a crucial difference.
 

tncekm

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not to be self-glorifying, but I do think us pre-vets and vets deserve a nice pat on the back! :thumbup: for all we do and have to go through, we really aren't paid that spectacularly at all. and we STILL deal with people who call all vets in general greedy
I totally agree that vets deserve a huge pat on the back. I am going into human rather than veterinary medicine--despite the fact I probably like animals more than people--primarily because of all the crap you have to deal with, like people treating pets as throw-away luxuries.
 

luplodw

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I worked for a vet whose son worked for him as an assistant who killed himself...but I haven't heard of any actual vets who have committed suicide

It was so sad :( Plus he was really hot haha
 

VeganSoprano

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I agree with a lot of what has been said here. I personally knew one vet who committed suicide. This person had a debilitating, painful, incurable illness that was also perfectly compatible with a normal life expectancy. Had this person been a veterinary patient, euthanasia would have certainly been a legitimate option. I suspect this may have played a role in this person's decision - though of course I don't know this for sure.
 

sumstorm

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My ugly analysis: The people in my former profession pretty much don't care about other people and take out their frustrations on anyone else around them. Or they drink VERY heavily or they ABUSE drugs.

Most of the people in vet med seem to be pretty considerate and caring people. Makes me wonder if that is a crucial difference.
Alcohol/drug abuse is an issue fo ~1/3 of vets. Or that was the stat we were given during orientation.

Are there any US studies? I have seen one about depression in vet school, but not suicide in vets.