New tool supports veterinary schools after student suicide

 

Hands in a circle

AVMA partners with colleges, suicide experts

A new resource is available to guide the veterinary academic community with strategies in the aftermath of a student's death by suicide. After a suicide: A toolkit for colleges of veterinary medicine will help veterinary colleges support the emotional wellbeing of students, faculty, and staff.

The toolkit is free and was developed through a partnership of the AVMA, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), and survivors of suicide loss in the veterinary medical community.

The toolkit contains:

  • Best practices for how school administrators and staff should respond in the immediate aftermath of a suicide
  • Guidance on helping students, faculty, and staff cope in the short and long term
  • Tips on working with the media and community partners such as coroners, local police, funeral directors, faith leaders, and mental health professionals
  • Tools for deciding how to safely memorialize students
  • Important information on how to identify and support community members who may be vulnerable and reduce the risk of suicide contagion

A school’s response immediately following a suicide is crucial, according to Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "Suicide loss survivors can develop elevated risk of suicide if not appropriately supported,” she said. “The appropriate handling of the aftermath of a suicide often paves the way for effective prevention strategies to be developed and employed at the next phase after the grief period."

The AVMA is committed to ongoing collaboration with suicidology experts and leaders in the suicide prevention field. We hope that veterinary academics will share this resource widely among colleagues and become familiar with its advice.

The toolkit also is accompanied by other free resources, including facts about veterinary mental health and suicide, and a webinar on mental health and suicide prevention. All these resources can be found on the AFSP website at https://afsp.org/veterinarians.

We all can help prevent suicides

The AVMA offers free QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention training to all AVMA and Student AVMA members. This one-hour online course teaches people without professional mental health backgrounds to recognize the signs that someone may be considering suicide, and provides simple, effective questions to guide the person to seek professional help. We encourage all members to take advantage of this learning opportunity. It’s a free benefit of AVMA and SAVMA membership.

More suicide prevention resources

You also can watch these three short videos, which the AVMA released earlier this year in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. They feature AVMA’s director of wellbeing and diversity initiatives, and provide insight into three critical aspects of the suicide discussion. Each video is approximately 90 seconds long. You can view them here:

For more information and wellbeing resources, please visit avma.org/wellbeing.