Out of 89 recorded deaths of veterinarians in the states of Western Australia and Victoria from 1990 to 2002, 11 were suicides, according to new research in the Australian Veterinary Journal. That may not sound like much, but it's four times the suicide rate of adults in other professions. The most common method of suicide was poisoning by injectable barbiturate.
Researchers admit the sample was very small. They're hoping a larger study of suspected suicides from the national registry will support their data.
In deciding to study veterinarian suicides, the researchers point to a similar study in the United Kingdom that found elevated suicide rates among British veterinarians. That study suggested a correlation between the high IQ of veterinary students and the suicide rate. Extremely demanding veterinary coursework may stifle emotional maturity, and resources for depression may be lacking in the veterinary community.
"A more representative sample of veterinarians will be required to determine whether the suicide rate is as high as indicated and whether stress, distress, and depression play a significant role in contibuting to veterinarians' suicide," researchers say.
The Australian Veterinary Association provides a toll-free phone counseling program for its members, and Western Australia holds workshops dealing with problems associated with psychosocial distress.
For members, the AVMA has a Web site and resources available for mental and physical wellness here.