Veterans in college are six times more likely to attempt suicide than the typical student and more than a fifth have planned to kill themselves, a new study presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting shows.
Universities are largely unprepared to meet the educational, and mental health needs, of the more than one million veterans expected to enter institutions of higher education in the next decade according to the report.
“If we don’t think [this] through, it’s going to be a significant and very difficult problem,” the study’s author, M.David Rudd said. “These [mental health] numbers were far higher than anticipated” and veterans are “having dramatically more difficulty than the typical student.”
The study shows that about half of veterans have contemplated killing themselves and that 82 percent of those who attempted suicide also struggled with significant post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Researchers say veterans often feel disconnected from their fellow students. This social separation, coupled with a “warrior mentality” can make seeking emotional help especially difficult.
Since the passage of the post-9/11 GI Bill, the number of veterans attending college has surged. While many universities have worked to welcome and support veterans on to their campuses, the transition has not always been smooth. In Maryland, Charles Whittington, an Iraq war veteran, was suspended from the Community College of Baltimore County after he wrote a paper about his addiction to killing that college administrators found “disturbing.” Other veterans have complained that fellow students are immature or constantly ask, “Did you kill anyone over there?”