Veterinarians and suicide: the pain that comes with perseverance - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Veterinarians and suicide: the pain that comes with perseverance

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TRI-CITIES, WA - A Center For Disease Control report breaks down exactly which jobs have the highest suicide rates, and one of the careers seeing huge spikes in suicide are veterinarians. We spoke with a local vet to learn more.

"Sometimes you have to decide what to hang on to and what to let go of," said Dr. Lynn Harbinson, Medical Director with VCA.

For the past few years, veterinary medicine as a whole has been dealing with a suicide rate that's one of the highest in the healthcare profession. A recent CDC survey found that 1 in 6 veterinary school graduates say they've considered suicide, and a British study found that suicides among vets are four times higher than that of the UK's general population.

While this may sound surprising, Dr. Harbinson says the reasons for this make more sense than you might think.

"Even though there's a lot of association with animals, that sometimes is not the main part of our job," Dr. Harbinson said. "The student debt part of it, that the job itself can be quite taxing mentally, and then that we do have easy access to euthanasia drugs, that we're accustomed to euthanasia."

Vets don't just provide medical care, they also deal with pet parents in tough situations like the cost of care and making the ethical decision between when to intervene and when to say goodbye.

These conversations sometimes lead vets to develop a disconnect between the clinical and emotional aspects of their job. 

"Maybe being numb is not the appropriate answer," said Dr. Harbinson.

She also says all new vets should take steps to make sure their mental health is, first and foremost, a priority.

"Once you are in the field, it's really important to take good care of yourself and do things that you find fun outside of veterinary medicine, and then really celebrate the victories."

Regardless of the field you're in, taking care of yourself is most important. Don't be afraid to ask for help and know you are not alone.