After returning home to Utah from the Iraq war and a year-long hospital stay to recover from major injuries, Brad Chidester sat in college classrooms surrounded by other young people and felt utterly alone. His combat experience made it impossible to relate to the seeming frivolity of undergraduate life at Dixie State College.
"They are enjoying their life and you don’t feel like you belong anymore. Life was different for me," said Chidester, 28, who lives in the central Utah town of Fountain Green. There were times in college when Chidester felt he couldn’t go on, before he was admitted to a hospital to begin treatment for his psychological injuries. He is among the near-majority of college student veterans whom scholars now believe have experienced suicidal feelings.
In a new study led by the University of Utah’s National Center for Veterans Studies (NCVS), researchers found that 46 percent of those responding to a survey reported some suicidal thinking, while 10 percent planned suicide and 7.7 percent attempted it. Eighty-two percent of those who attempted suicide experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Other studies indicate lower rates of psychological distress in both the general student population and among veterans in clinical settings, according to lead author M. David Rudd, a professor of psychology and dean of the U. College of Social and Behavioral Science.