Here at People, Pets & Vets, we are passionately committed to the mental, physical, and emotional well being of each PPV family member. People always come first. While suicide can be uncomfortable to talk about, it is important to acknowledge that it is a very real risk, especially in the veterinary profession. You and your teams are working tirelessly to care for the pets in your community, but it is important that you don’t forget to care for yourself as well. We are passionate people who are often in stressful situations, so it’s important to take a moment to talk about suicide prevention. It is important to acknowledge that it is okay to not feel okay and that there are plenty of resources and support pathways for you. Life can be hard, but how we might feel today is not how we will feel forever.
A suicide attempt is a cry for help that should never be taken lightly. People who attempt suicide are usually struggling with mental health challenges, which commonly include major depression or bipolar disorder. How do you know if someone is contemplating suicide? Here’s what to look for if you think someone you know, a friend, or colleague is at risk.
- Making verbal suicide threats like, “You’d be better off without me.” or “Maybe I won’t be around.”
- Expressions of hopelessness and helplessness
- Previous suicide attempts
- Major depression
- Giving away prized possessions
- Lack of interest in future plans
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Extreme mood swings
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, call (800) 273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
It is important to know that it is okay to talk about suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S. It is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. A recent study from 2019 by Tomasi et al. in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association highlighted that more than three decades of data shows that veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide compared to the general population. This study found that veterinary professionals are at increased risk for suicide due to poor work-life balance, work overload, management responsibilities, client expectations, and euthanasia procedures.
Warmline (for those who aren’t in crisis, but want to talk to someone)
The Trevor Lifeline (for LGBTQIA youth)
Disaster Distress Helpline (talk with a trained counselor)
(800) 985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
Veterans Crisis Line (connect with a VA responder)
(800) 273-8255 and Press 1 or text 838255
211 provides callers with information about and referrals to social services for every day needs and in times of crisis
Dr. Nicole McArthur founded an organization called Not One More Vet. This is an online support group with over 16,000 veterinary professionals worldwide that exists to create a sense of community and support. You can learn more about the amazing work this organization does by visiting https://www.nomv.org
As each of you works compassionately to continue serving your community and pets, please remember to take care of your well being. Your entire PPV family is thinking about you and wishing you nothing but good health for yourselves and your loved ones.
Managing anxiety and stress is important in terms of suicide prevention. Taking a proactive approach to your mental health is valuable. To help calm anxious thoughts, there are several things you can do. A quick and simple technique to break up anxious thoughts is to intentionally distract your mind and train of thought when you feel anxious. An easy way to do this is to silently name four shapes, sounds, colors, and textures that you can see in your immediate environment. This can disrupt the thoughts that are producing anxiety by redirecting your focus and attention to a neutral, yet engaging task. Many individuals find peace and comfort in music, so try putting together a “happy playlist” with all of your favorite songs. Listen to this playlist when you find yourself alone such as driving in the car or working silently.
The therapeutic benefits of journaling have been scientifically proven time and time again. Consider keeping a journal where you can privately write your thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing. Allow yourself to openly and candidly journal about what you are feeling without reservation. This journal does not need to be shared with anyone, so it can include anger, frustration, sadness, and other emotions that you might not feel comfortable verbally expressing.
Please take a moment to learn more about the 5 action steps for helping someone in emotional pain by visiting https://go.usa.gov/xyxGc
. Learn about what to do if you think someone might be at risk for self-harm, and how you can make a difference in suicide prevention by visiting https://go.usa.gov/xyxGa
If you would like additional information on emotional and mental health or suicide prevention resources, you can confidentially contact us here.
Tomasi, S. E., Fechter-Leggett, E. D., Edwards, N. T., Reddish, A. D., Crosby, A. E., & Nett, R. J. (2019). Suicide among veterinarians in the United States from 1979 through 2015. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 254
(1), 104–112. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.254.1.104
Written By: Saajan Bhakta, PhD (Psychology)