In addition to the common stressors that college students experience, students who are veterans of military service bring unique sets of experience that can increase their stress levels and risk for suicide. Recent reports indicated that male veterans die by suicide at twice the rate of the general male population and female veterans die at three times the rate of the general population. Student veterans tend to be younger than veterans in general, but older than traditional undergraduates. In 2007-08, 85 percent of military undergraduates were aged 24 or older.
Veterans who have experienced trauma in war and combat might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal thoughts. It is important to know the warning signs of these conditions and, if there’s a problem, how to get involved in order to help your friend or family member cope and begin to get well.
People who are having suicidal thoughts often display warning signs that indicate that they are at risk for suicide. While family and people close to the person may notice these signs, they may not understand their significance nor understand how to intervene. See the Get Help and Learn How To Intervene pages for resources and guidelines on how to help. In addition to those common warning signs, there are veteran specific factors that may increase risk for suicide:
- Frequent deployments
- Deployments to hostile environments
- Exposure to extreme stress
- Physical/sexual assault while in the service (not limited to women)
- Length of deployments
- Service-related injury
Nearly 20 percent of U.S. service members returning from combat will report symptoms of PTSD or major depression. Yet, it is estimated that more than half veterans who are suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and tramatic brain injury are not receiving treatment. This lack of treatment may be associated with stigma issues, but they are also the result of gaps in mental health care.
College provides student veterans with additional access to mental health services. These services can be used in addition to services through the vet centers.