Student Veterans at Increased Risk for Suicide

Nearly one fifth of veterans struggle with depression or PTSD, and the suicide rates have doubled in the past decade among those who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. But little attention has been given to the veterans who face additional emotional and psychological challenges as they return from combat and enroll in college. M. David Rudd and Jeffrey Goulding of the University of Utah, and Craig J. Bryan of the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio, believe this segment of veterans is particularly vulnerable to suicide due to the increased levels of pressure and stress resulting from college.

The researchers conducted a study on 628 student veterans, examining suicide risk and psychological symptoms and severity. They used The National Center for Veterans Studies (NCVS) survey to rate the students’ satisfaction with psychological services on campus. The participants were screened for symptoms using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, the Combat Exposure Scale, the PTSD Checklist and the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire—Revised Edition. The results revealed that almost 35% of students had “severe anxiety,” almost one half met required criteria for clinical PTSD, and nearly 25% of the students reported symptoms of “severe depression.” The researchers said, “Of particular concern, there are significant numbers of participants thinking about suicide (46%), with 20% having a plan, 10.4% thinking about suicide “often or very often,” 7.7% making an attempt, and 3.8% believing that suicide is either likely or very likely.”

The team hopes their findings will underscore the importance of addressing these issues for student veterans. They added, “Given the type, frequency, and severity of psychiatric symptoms, and the simple fact that these veterans are on college and university campuses, it is important to consider whether or not universities are adequately staffed and prepared to assist and treat them when needed.”

Rudd, M. D., Goulding, J., & Bryan, C. J. (2011, August 15). Student Veterans: A National Survey Exploring Psychological Symptoms and Suicide Risk. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025164

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • James


    August 24th, 2011 at 4:16 AM

    College alone can be so stressful- add to that the stress from having to deal with the war and combat issues that I have faced and that is alot for anyone to deal with. The good thing about the college aetting though that you might not have in other places is that there is already a lot of counseling available there. The key would be convincing the student vets that they needed to get the help and to get them to the right person before it too dramatically impacted their lives and the college experience.

  • FR


    August 24th, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    When we speak about the wars that America is involved in today,we often focus on the monetary aspects,the real need of being in these wars and things like that.But what we miss out on is this data-that of how much of a psychological beating our armed forces’ personnel are taking.

    This needs to be spread out in the news for people to know.There is a lack of awareness regarding this issue.

  • DK.B


    August 24th, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Well I’m no expert in the field but having read quite a bit about it, veterans have issues and college students if you’re a veteran and also in college then that just sounds like a double issue to me.

  • Quentin I. W.

    Quentin I. W.

    September 17th, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    Doesn’t college increase chances of suicide all by its lonesome? College students have so much weight on their shoulders from pleasing parents to pleasing future employers that I can’t even manage what being veteran would add to this.

    I suppose this is one of the benefits of schools like West Point where you graduate from college before beginning in the military. It’s getting out of hand with the amount of students who buckled under pressure and commit suicide that I wouldn’t recommend anyone go to college after finishing in the military. To much of a risk if you ask me. Maybe I’m a worry wart but this is where I stand, and I won’t budge.

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