East Tennessee veterinarians discuss nationwide suicide rate

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds a higher rate of suicides for veterinarians.

Doctor Catherine Carr works at Powell Animal Hospital in Knox County.

On a busy day, she sees 20 patients.

Long hours and animal hardships are just the surface of some of her challenges.

The CDC study reveals female veterinarians are 3.5 times more likely, and male veterinarians are 2.1 times more likely to die from suicide compared to the general population.

Some of the reasons are: financial stress from paying-off student loans, seeing animals whose owners may not be able to afford an operation, and euthanizing animals.

Carr said she finds ways to see the rewarding aspects of her job.

"I like to look at the good things that we can do and just know that we are helping pets and our client," Carr explained.

She takes time to de-stress away from work.

Her advice for aspiring vets--follow your heart and don't let the challenges take over you reaching your end goal.

UT College of Veterinary Medicine wants to prevent suicide.

The S.A.V.E. Memorialwas started in memory of UT alumnus, Paul Nolen, who took his own life.

The program stands for Suicide Awareness in Veterinary Education.

It teaches students and faculty signs of mental health disorders.

Associate Dean of Academics at UT College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Claudia Kirk said the goal is to promote student wellness.

"We feel that addressing the challenges stepwise throughout the curriculum so that when they leave our halls, they're also well trained as well as more resilient and able to request help," Kirk explained.

There is even a curriculum taught in the classroom for all four years for students in vet school.

It serves as a guide for suicide training and awareness, and overall mental health management.

"It is a very rigorous program, high expectations, you know, understandably because we're going to be doctors. So it's very important that we take care of ourselves and find ways to balance the stresses that we're experiencing," said Isabella Bermingham, a student at UT in the vet program.

Nearly 350 vet students can benefit from these programs.

"We can't be afraid to put our well being ahead. Because we can't take care of our patients if we're not taking care of ourselves," said Bermingham.

As for Carr being a veterinarian for 18 years now, she feels confident in her coping mechanisms.

"But I think we have to have a balance of the good and the bad. But overall we still love what we do," said Carr.

If you need to speak with someone, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

UT College of Veterinary Medicine students and staff can also call the veterinary social work office at 865-755-8839 if they need help.

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