Anticipated Impacts on Veterans Health: This study will produce the first rigorous assessment of mental health symptoms and hazardous alcohol use in Veteran students, a high priority population for the VA. Obtaining these data is a critical first step if the VA and colleges are to make informed decisions regarding optimal resource allocation for outreach efforts, the types of interventions that might be needed and desired by this target population, and the attributes of colleges where such interventions might be most needed and have the broadest impact. This study will also produce the first assessment of the link between Veteran student mental health and academic performance. Project Background: Mental health symptoms are highly prevalent among Veterans returning from the current conflicts.(2)(3)(4)A recent study of a convenience sample also reported startlingly high rates of mental health issues and suicidal ideation among Veteran college students, exceeding those observed among OEF/OIF Veterans seeking VA care.(5) In addition, several small studies have reported links between non-Veteran student mental health, poor college performance, and failure to graduate.(6) Project Objectives: Our objectives are to: assess the prevalence of mental health symptoms, hazardous alcohol use, and levels of wellbeing among a representative sample of Veteran and comparison college students. We will also assess mental health treatment use, treatment preferences, perceived treatment barriers, and academic performance. We will next assess relationships between mental health, treatment use, and academic performance. Finally, we will explore Veteran and comparison student work status and functioning when work is concurrent with studies and during college "stop outs". Study Design: Data for this study will primarily come from surveys of a representative sample of Veteran students and comparison students, supplemented by 1) surveys of college administrators;2) academic administrative data, and 3) VHA healthcare data for Veteran students providing additional consent. A stratified cluster sample design will be used to select Veteran and comparison college students for the student survey. Sixty colleges and 2580 Veteran and comparison students within these institutions will be selected. Baseline and one and two year follow up surveys will assess well-being, mental health symptoms, alcohol use, social and academic integration, and treatment use. Data on GPA and stop out from enrollment will be assessed. Univariate, bivariate, and multivariate analyses of quantitative data will address study aims.
If Veteran students are successful in meeting reintegration challenges and educational goals, many will be leaders in their Veteran and civilian communities. Unfortunately, preliminary data suggests Veteran students have high levels of unmet mental health need that may impact well-being and educational success. The VHA has embarked on efforts to support Veteran students, but there are few high quality data to guide its efforts. We will conduct surveys of a representative sample of Veterans and comparison students to provide critical information on mental health symptom levels, treatment use, treatment preferences, treatment barriers, and Veteran students'academic performance. These data will inform the development and roll-out of VHA services for this key population.This study addresses a high priority group for VHA-- Veteran students.