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Effect of attitudes to euthanasia on vets' suicide risk
  1. Cameron Stark, MB, ChB, MPH, MSc, MRCPsych, FFPH1 and
  2. Nadine Dougall, BSc, MSc2
  1. 1Department of Public Health, NHS Highland, Assynt House, Beechwood Park, Inverness IV2 3BW, UK
  2. 2NMHAP Research Unit, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
  1. e-mail:

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THE World Health Organization (WHO)estimates that at least one million people die by suicide each year (WHO 2011). In most of the world death rates for men are two to three times higher than the death rate in women. Mental illness is an important risk factor for suicide attempts (Nock and others 2009) and for death by suicide (Harris and Barraclough 1997). Other risk factors for death by suicide include genetics (Currier and Mann 2008), early life experience (Danziger and others 2011), substance misuse (Schneider 2009), poverty (Rehkopf and Buka 2006) and previous episodes of attempted suicide. Particular styles of thinking also seem to be important (Morrison and O'Connor 2008).

Episodes of deliberate self-harm are considerably more common than completed suicide (Hawton and Harriss 2008), and the predictive value of any individual suicide risk factor is low. As a result, models of suicide are multifactorial (Williams 1997, O'Connor 2011). The observation that most people with risk factors do not die by suicide has also encouraged research into protective factors that reduce suicide risk, and in to factors that seem to promote psychological resilience (Johnson and others 2011).

Several occupations are at greater risk of death by suicide, including doctors and pharmacists. Research on occupational death rates is difficult to conduct, and has significant risks of bias. Platt and colleagues conducted a systematic review and noted that 14 of 15 studies identified by them reported a higher risk of death by suicide in veterinarians than in comparison groups (Platt and others 2010). Three UK studies were identified as having a low risk of …

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