College student veterans’ risk for suicide was comparable to or more severe than that of other veterans.
Suicide risk is high among war veterans in college, study finds
Nearly half of college students who are U.S. military veterans
have thought of suicide and 20 percent said they had planned
to kill themselves — rates significantly higher than those of
college students in general, according to a study presented by
M. David Rudd, PhD, during APA’s 2011 Annual Convention.
“These alarming numbers underscore the urgent need for
universities to be adequately staffed and prepared to assist
and treat student veterans,” said Rudd, the study’s lead author,
who spoke during a symposium on the challenges of suicide
prevention in the military.
In the study, researchers with the National Center for
Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah looked at survey
results gathered in 2011 from 525 veterans — 415 men and
110 women, with an average age of 26. Ninety-eight percent
had been deployed in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and
about 60 percent reported they had experienced combat. Most
were Caucasian ( 77 percent), with the remainder Hispanic
( 12 percent), African-American ( 7 percent), Asian-American
( 3 percent) and Native American ( 1 percent). This ethnic
• 20 percent reported suicidal thoughts with a plan.
• 10. 4 percent reported thinking of suicide very often.
• 7. 7 percent reported a suicide attempt.
• 3. 8 percent reported a suicide attempt was either likely or
These rates are significantly higher than rates found in the
American College Health Association’s 2010 data on university
students in general, which show 6 percent of college students
reported seriously considering suicide and 1. 3 percent reported
a suicide attempt.
The survey data also indicated that the student veterans’
suicide-related problems were comparable to or more severe
than those of veterans seeking mental health services from VA
The study authors said they were unaware of any data
describing the preparedness of college and university
counseling centers to meet these demands. They recommended
expanding training to help counselors recognize and treat
combat-related trauma, making training available not only to
background distribution is similar to that of all U.S. veterans,
according to the paper.
The findings were startling:
• 46 percent indicated suicidal thinking at some
point during their lives.
clinics and counseling centers but to all student service offices
that have significant contact with students, and providing
broad-based screening for student veterans as they transition to
campus, such as during orientation.