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AAVMC co-sponsors post-suicide action plan

The AVMA and a suicide-prevention group assist with detailing best practices for colleges of veterinary medicine.

AAVMC co-sponsors post-suicide action plan

Three organizations have teamed up to create a 47-page document designed to help colleges of veterinary medicine respond promptly and properly to a student suicide and support grieving classmates.

The resource, “After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Colleges of Veterinary Medicine,” is available at http://bit.ly/2KEpykw.

Veterinarians are more than twice as likely as the general U.S. population to commit suicide, studies have found.

“The tragedy of suicide echoes throughout an organization,” said Andrew T. Maccabe, DVM, MPH, JD, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ CEO. “This toolkit provides a best-practices approach to effectively managing the impact of suicide on our academic communities.”

AAVMC partnered on the project with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“This toolkit addresses many of the questions that schools have following a suicide death, while also giving them a framework through which to effectively respond to students’ questions and needs,” said AVMA President Dr. John Howe, DVM. “Collaborating with [the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention] provided the expertise and insight necessary in the development of these tools, and AAVMC’s reach within the colleges and schools gives us confidence that they will make a significant difference in the future of veterinary medicine.”

The document provides step-by-step checklists for colleges of veterinary medicine. For example:

Day 1

  • If not already in place, develop a crisis response team.
  • Make immediate notifications.
  • Meet with students.
  • Strongly consider canceling classes for students in the same veterinary medical education track as the deceased.
  • Ensure that mental health services are available 24/7 for at least the first two weeks.

Beyond the First Month

  • Hold a memorial service if not done already.
  • Consider monthly process groups with a mental health professional.
  • Attend to student well-being issues.
  • If not already done, develop a CVM suicide-prevention plan that takes the long view on how the institution plans to address the factors that lead to stress, burnout and suicide risk.

“Veterinary student mental health is an important component in any school’s strategy to support students’ health and professional growth,” said Christine Moutier, MD, the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Because suicide loss survivors can develop elevated risk of suicide if not appropriately supported, postvention is a critical component of suicide prevention. 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 website also provides facts about mental health and suicide as well as resources for health care professionals and medical educators.

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