30 March 2022

It is a harsh but true reality: vets are more likely to die by suicide than the average. This can involve using medicines and firearms that they have easy access to in the workplace.

A new project—the first of its kind—seeks to interview people who have been affected by veterinary suicides (and suicide attempts), with the aim of understanding how we can best prevent suicide by making workplaces safer for all.

Part-funded by the Business School and part-funded by leading veterinary employers across the UK, this collaborative project draws upon the expertise of researchers from a wide range of medical and analytical sectors.

Previous attempts to lower suicide rates within the profession have often focused on identifying the predictability of any individual's 'risk factor'. Individual risk prediction in suicide prevention is fraught, and often misses people who are at risk.

This project is looking to determine methods of making the workplace safer for everyone across the board. The research team will gather insights and lessons learned by those who have first-hand experiences, and will use the findings to suggest and implement new safety regulations.

Dr Rosie Allister, who gained her PhD in mental health in veterinary practice at the University of Edinburgh (jointly through the Business School and the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies) is the lead researcher on this project. She said:

"Workplace access to means of suicide are thought to be an important factor in influencing elevated veterinary suicide rates, but while we understand some aspects of risk, there are gaps in knowledge about how we can practically help people to be safe.

"This in depth qualitative study will provide insight into factors influencing methods of suicide attempt. We really hope that this will build our knowledge to help identify effective and practical opportunities for workplace suicide prevention."

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