There is an increasing body of research to suggest that veterinary surgeons are significantly more likely to die by suicide than those in other healthcare professions and the general population. We are currently conducting research into the reasons for this, with generous funding and support from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, the Veterinary Benevolent Fund (VBF) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Trust Fund. We have conducted a systematic review of research literature on the elevated rate of suicide in the veterinary profession and are carrying out qualitative interviews with veterinary surgeons who have personally experienced suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Belinda Platt is the lead researcher on this project.
Relatively little is known about the reasons for the high rate of suicide in veterinarians. In order to assimilate current knowledge, we have conducted a comprehensive, international and systematic review of suicide, mental health problems and stress in the veterinary profession. The aim of this review is to summarise the results of population prevalence studies of suicide in the profession, to report the nature of mental health difficulties in the profession and the sources of stress. In addition, we aim to analyse the nature and quality of research to date in order to develop suggestions and recommendations about the potential direction of future research in this area.
As a follow up to a postal survey of well being and mental health of 20% of RCVS members, we are conducting face-to-face interviews with veterinary surgeons who report thoughts about taking their life as well as those who have attempted to take their life in the past. This will enable us to understand better the nature of suicidal behaviour in this occupational group, including the occupational and personal factors that contribute to it, how veterinary surgeons cope with suicidal thoughts and behaviour, and how suicidal behaviour might be prevented in the future.
Papers arising from this work include:
Platt, B., Hawton, K., Simkin, S. & Mellanby, R. J. (2012). Suicidal behaviour and psychosocial problems in veterinary surgeons: a systematic review. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 47, 223-240. doi:10.1007/s00127-010-0328-6
Platt, B., Hawton, K., Simkin, S., Mellanby, R.J. (2010) Systematic review of the prevalence of suicide in veterinary surgeons. Occupational Medicine, 60, 436-446 doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqq044
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