Chief Scientific Officer at VetMedux Coauthors Study on Suicide in Veterinary Medicine

August 21, 2023
3 min

Mental health and well-being are crucial conversations in veterinary medicine, with many of us struggling with our mental health or knowing a colleague who has. What’s particularly worrisome is that veterinarians are at an increased risk of suicide compared to other professions.1,2

While the reason for this isn’t fully understood—and is likely multifactorial—particular features of our profession likely contribute, including long work hours, work overload, practice management responsibilities, client expectations and complaints, euthanasia procedures, and poor work-life balance.2

However, easy access to and knowledge of drugs such as pentobarbital is another potential factor. People at risk for suicide usually choose methods that are accessible and familiar, and the rate of suicide via pharmaceutical poisoning is higher for veterinarians than in the general population.2 Limiting access to drugs like pentobarbital could be a potential way to lower the suicide risk for veterinarians.  

Dr. Indu Mani: Seeking Solutions for Moral Distress in Veterinarians

Indu Mani, DVM, DSc, Chief Scientific Officer of VetMedux™, wanted to investigate further. A fellow in the bioethics program at Harvard Medical School, she represents veterinary medicine in critical discussions on human and animal ethics. She has focused much of her career on improving the welfare of veterinarians and the animals they treat. She’s particularly interested in moral distress among veterinarians and what can be done to help.

“Moral distress is when somebody wants to do something that’s aligned with their moral compass, but extraneous circumstances or professional or institutional circumstances don’t allow that to occur. Veterinary moral distress is unique—and uniquely stressful—because we’re in a profession where no matter how much we advocate for our patients, we cannot rely on our patient’s best interest or prevention of harm as driving what we do, and that’s really tough. 

Indu Mani, DVM, DSc
Chief Scientific Officer

This passion for addressing moral distress and the well-being of veterinarians led Dr. Mani to coauthor a study on reducing suicide risk.  

“Most of us know people who we’ve lost to suicide who are colleagues, probably more so than a lot of professions. At VetMedux, we feel passionately that we need to understand the inception of this suicidality. And we believe there are deeper causes to it, and we’d like to try to unearth that.”

Indu Mani, DVM, DSc
Chief Scientific Officer

Pentobarbital Storage: The Answer to Preventing Veterinary Suicides?

Since suicides can be prevented when additional time and effort are required to access a means of suicide,3 Dr. Mani and her colleagues set out to discover if changes to pentobarbital storage methods could help prevent suicides among veterinarians. 

They gathered information regarding current pentobarbital storage practices and worked with focus groups to examine feasible methods of storage. They were also interested to find out whether veterinarians would be more willing to change their storage practices after participating in a focus group. 

This was the first time access to pentobarbital within the workplace was studied as a potential means of preventing suicide among veterinarians. Dr. Mani is hopeful results from this study will inform public messaging campaigns and policy changes that will ultimately keep veterinary team members safer. 

Read the full-text article (complimentary for AVMA members) to learn more about the details of the study and discover the results.

VetMedux: On a Mission to Support Veterinarians 

Supporting the well-being of veterinarians is something that drives Dr. Mani and the whole team at VetMedux. 

With its two time-saving tools, Clinician’s Brief® and Plumb’s™, VetMedux™ helps guide veterinarians’ most critical decisions and ease the stresses that are placed on them every single day in practice. That means supporting veterinarians with trusted information on everything from drugs and therapeutics and clinical skills to the changing dynamics of practice life and pet owner relationships.

It also means continuing to support research that addresses the challenges this profession faces and helps improve the lives of veterinarians.

“That’s our ethos at VetMedux: Spreading knowledge about what veterinarians do, what we face, what we undergo, and increasing pride in the profession. It’s a beautiful profession. It’s a gorgeous, amazing, emotional, fulfilling, joyful profession. We forget that sometimes because of all the other stuff.”

Indu Mani, DVM, DSc
Chief Scientific Officer

Learn more about VetMedux (formerly Brief Media).