CVMA | Documents | Media Release: Working Together to Prevent Suicide in the Veterinary Profession

Media Release: Working Together to Prevent Suicide in the Veterinary Profession

September 3, 2020

Ottawa, Ont. – Every September, the Canadian veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and Merck Animal Health come together to host the It’s Time To Talk About Mental Health In Veterinary Medicine awareness campaign highlighting the mental health struggles many professionals face in the veterinary community.  

An average of 10 people die by suicide each day in Canada, making suicide the ninth leading cause of death.  Although anyone can be impacted by suicide, some populations are at higher risk, including veterinary professionals.

“Research from the Ontario Veterinary College, published in early 2020, reported that 26.2 per cent of Canadian veterinarians have thought of suicide in the last 12 months,” says Dr. Kathy Keil, Technical Services Veterinarian for Merck Animal Health and the lead veterinarian on the CVMA-Merck Animal Health awareness campaign. This number is significantly higher than the general population. Too many of our talented and wonderful colleagues have either thought about, attempted, or died by suicide. One is one too many. Suicide prevention is critical." 

In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, the Mental Health in Vet Med campaign is hosting a webinar to bring suicidology experts and the veterinary community together. The webinar features two experts:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Spitzer is a psychologist who co-led the most comprehensive investigation of suicide amongst veterinarians to date which uncovered the role of a veterinary drug, pentobarbital, in self-poisonings.
  • Robert Olson, from the Centre for Suicide Prevention, will explain the value of gatekeeper suicide prevention and awareness training.

The campaign will launch a free safety sticker to be used on drug safes in veterinary clinics as a concrete measure to prevent pentobarbital suicides. 

"When we come together as a veterinary community on webinars such as this, it helps us feel less alone knowing there is a peer network open to talking about suicide and ways to prevent it,” says Dr. Keil. “Research and lived experiences show that a strong social support system helps lower suicidal ideation occurrences."

The webinar, running live from 12 – 1 p.m. EST, will be recorded. More information about the webinar and the Time to Talk about Mental Health in Vet Med awareness campaign can be found on the CVMA website at

Please reach out for help if you or someone you know is in crisis: contact the Canadian Suicide Support line at 1-833-456-4566 or find a call centre near you at

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About the CVMA 
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is the national and international voice for Canada’s 13,000 veterinarians, providing leadership and advocacy for veterinary medicine. Visit to learn more about the CVMA.  

About Merck Animal Health 
Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, is the global animal health business unit of Merck. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals. For more information, visit us online at 

Lori Tarbett
Manager, Communications and Public Relations
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association