Suicide rate among veterinarians above national average: study

Veterinarians are committing suicide at rates well beyond the national average, according to a new UQAM report which explores why one of the cuddliest jobs often leads to mental health crisis. 

The report by Anne-Sophie Cardinal Psychology Doctoral candidate at the Université du Québec à Montréal finds that in Canada, 19 per cent of veterinarians have suicidal thoughts and 9 per cent have made an attempt.

Rates are even higher a better documented in the UK.

Veterinary doctor Amanda Glew says in part, the rarity of animal health insurance is part of the reason that vets are stressed.

"Not only are you dealing with clients in very high emotional stress you're asking people to pay for your services," says Glew. "So there's always a little bit of anger towards you as a professional because you're asking to be paid for the services to help their animals."

She says vets witness heartbreaking animal abuse and neglect, and have to put down animals daily.

"I mean I was one of those bleeding heart type veterinarians when I started, I thought I could save the world," she says. "You start to realize, no it doesn't work that way. There's a dark reality to it and this is why there's a lot of burnout."

The study says that working with euthanasia can reduce vets' fear of death.

Glew says these tendencies in the profession are well known, and vets keep an eye on each other for signs of burnout.

Caroline Kilsdonk, the president of the Order of Quebec Veterinarians, says the findings aren't surprising.

"Veterainarians both care for animals, and have to euthanize them," kilsdonk says. "Sometimes [euthanasia is] optional or convenient euthanasia which is difficult for many veterinarians."

She also suggests there's a financial element to their work — many pet owners don't have the ability to pay for the care their pets might need.