Approximately 1 out of 5 soldiers returning from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) reported symptoms and behaviors consistent with PTSD or depression. It is critical to link these OEF/OIF veterans with mental health problems to care in order to promote successful re- integration into a productive, civilian life. A large percentage of OEF/OIF veterans are using GI educational benefits to attend two-year community colleges. The community college setting offers a unique opportunity to both investigate and address one of the most significant public health problems among our returning veterans;however, a robust base of research evidence is first necessary for colleges and our society more generally to seize this opportunity. The proposed study is a first step toward fully realizing this opportunity. Before designing an intervention to link student veterans in community colleges with appropriate services, it is critical to develop an improved understanding of their mental health needs and help-seeking behaviors, about which virtually nothing is currently known. To know if a unique intervention is needed for student veterans, the researchers aim to understand how they differ from the general population of community college students. These initial analyses are required before moving forward with the development of a new screening and linkage intervention that will be both feasible in the community college setting and acceptable to this student veteran population and their families. Using a sample from 8 public community colleges in Arkansas (N=1,000, including 500 veterans), the researchers will field a web-based survey to collect and analyze data to address the following specific aims: 1) Estimate the prevalence of depression, PTSD, TBI, substance misuse, and suicidal ideation among the student veteran population and compare it to the broader student population of community colleges. 2) Estimate the prevalence of help-seeking among the student veteran population and compare it to the broader student population of community colleges. 3) Identify the most salient barriers to help-seeking among student veterans. The long term goal of the researchers'agenda is to develop a screening and linkage intervention for OEF/OIF veterans attending these underserved community colleges. Linking student veterans with mental health problems to quality care is critical to their educational success on the new GI bill and their successful re- integration into civilian life.
It is critical to link returning OEF/OIF veterans with mental health problems to care in order to promote successful re-integration into a productive, civilian life. Many of these veterans are attending community colleges using the newly enhanced GI Bill benefits;therefore, this educational setting offers a unique opportunity to both investigate and address one of the most significant public health problems among our returning veterans. However, a robust base of research evidence is first necessary for colleges and our society more generally to seize this opportunity-the proposed research is the initial step toward achieving this goal.