Practical Capability Among Veterinarians: Preliminary Evidence of the Importance of Access to Lethal Medications in the Workplace

Claire Houtsma, Allison E. Bond, Michael D. Anestis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Veterinarians die by suicide at elevated rates. Higher levels of capability for suicide among veterinarians, including access to lethal medications, may account for this discrepancy. This study aimed to determine the importance of accessibility of lethal medications in veterinary workplaces in the relationship between recent suicidal ideation and perceived likelihood of making a future suicide attempt. Method: Participants identifying with one or more groups at high-risk for suicide (e.g., veterinarians, firearm owners) were recruited via social media to complete online self-report questionnaires examining demographic, work-related, and suicide-related risk factors. The sample of veterinarians (n = 310) was primarily female, White, and worked in small animal practices. Results: Method of lethal medication storage in the workplace moderated the relationship between past week ideation and perceived likelihood of a future suicide attempt such that the relationship became stronger among those storing medications unlocked during business hours and weaker among those storing medications locked during business hours. Conclusion: Secure storage of lethal medications in the workplace may protect against suicide risk. Barriers to lethal medications, when not actively in use, may reduce both physical and cognitive accessibility. Future research should determine the impact of workplace lethal medication storage on suicidal behavior among veterinarians.HIGHLIGHTS Lethal med storage moderates link between suicidal thoughts and belief suicide is likely Storing unlocked may increase physical and cognitive accessibility of this method Working with vets to develop and implement means safety strategies will be important.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Euthanasia
  • female veterinarians
  • means safety
  • self-poisoning
  • suicide


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