Year: 2020 Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/American Veterinary Medical Association/ National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America/ Veterinary Hospital Managers Association/ Veterinary Medical Association Executives. (2020). 14 p. SIEC No: 20200869

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.