August 5, 2011

Suicide Risk High for War Vets in College

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ A new statistic finds that nearly half of college students who are U.S. military veterans reported thinking of suicide, and 20 percent said they had planned to kill themselves. These shocking rates are significantly higher than college students in general.

"These alarming numbers underscore the urgent need for universities to be adequately staffed and prepared to assist and treat student veterans," M. David Rudd, PhD, of the University of Utah, and lead author of the study, was quoted saying.
Researchers looked at survey results gathered in 2011 from 525 veterans, 415 males and 110 females, with an average age of 26. Ninety-eight percent had been deployed in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and 58 percent to 60 percent reported they had experienced combat. Seventy-seven percent were Caucasian, seven percent African-American, 12 percent Hispanic, three percent Asian-American, and one percent Native American.

The findings were staggering: 46 percent of respondents indicated suicidal thinking at some point during their lifetime; 20 percent reported suicidal thoughts with a plan; 10.4 percent reported thinking of suicide very often; 7.7 percent reported a suicide attempt; and 3.8 percent reported a suicide attempt was either likely or very likely.

Data from the American College Health Association in 2010 concerning university students in general wasn't nearly as alarming: six percent of college students reported seriously considering suicide and 1.3 percent reported a suicide attempt. The data also revealed the student veterans' suicide-related problems were comparable to or more severe than those of veterans seeking mental health services from VA medical centers.

"As nearly 2 million veterans return home from deployments overseas, the decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have unanticipated impact on college and university campuses, with large numbers separating from military service and making use of available higher education benefits to return to campus," the researchers wrote.

The authors recommend expanding training to help counselors recognize and treat combat-related trauma, making training available to all student service offices that have significant contact with students in addition to clinics and counseling centers, and providing broad-based screening for student veterans as they transition to campus.

SOURCE: Student Veterans: A National Survey Exploring Psychological Symptoms and Suicide Risk, presented at the American Psychological Association's 119th Annual Convention, August 5, 2011.