After a Suicide: A Guide for Veterinary Workplaces
Depois de um suicídio: Um guia para veterinários em seus locais de trabalho
Jen Brandt, Laura Hoffman, Christine Moutier and Rebecca Rose
The suicide death of an employee can leave a veterinary workplace1 faced with grieving employees, clients and industry partners, media attention, and a community struggling to understand what happened and why.
In this situation, a veterinary workplace needs reliable information, practical tools and guidance to help
respond immediately, help the community heal, and return to their primary mission of caring for their
patients and community.
After a Suicide: A Guide for Veterinary Workplaces provides guidance and tools for postvention, a term used to describe activities that help people cope with the emotional distress resulting from a suicide and prevent additional trauma and any potential for suicide contagion that could lead to further suicidal behavior and deaths, especially among people who may be at elevated risk for suicide. The following principles have directed the development of the guide and should be considered by those using this resource:
• Veterinary workplaces should treat all employee deaths within the same framework (i.e., take the same
approach and response for an employee who dies by suicide as for an employee who dies of a heart attack).
• Attention should be given to reducing the risk of suicide contagion that may occur when a vulnerable
person experiences the loss of another person to suicide and becomes at greater risk.
• With the proper information, guidance, and support from staff and leadership, staff can learn to cope
with the suicide of a fellow colleague, process their grief, and return to healthy functioning.
• Suicide is multi-factorial. It is important to consider that a person who dies by suicide was likely struggling
with significant concerns, including health factors (such as a mental health condition), historical factors
(such as previous trauma), and environmental factors (such as access to lethal means and stressful life
events) that caused substantial psychological pain even if that pain was not apparent to others.
• Help should be available for any person who may be struggling with mental health issues or feelings of suicide.
• Postvention efforts need to consider culturally competent approaches for supporting those affected by a suicide.
Significant numbers of veterinary professionals die by suicide across the United States every year and it is
important that every veterinary workplace be prepared to respond appropriately to such an event. We advise
having a plan and resources in place before a crisis occurs, with the hope that they will never be needed, that
will enable staff to respond in an organized, effective and supportive manner. Whether or not your practice
has such a plan, this guide contains information that can be used to initiate a coordinated response.