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2015 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

3056 — Veteran College Students' Mental Health: A Nationally Representative Sample

Valenstein M, COIN-Ann Arbor; Pfeiffer PN, COIN-Ann Arbor; DesJardin S, University of Michigan School of Education; Eisenberg D, University of Michigan School of Public Health; Hunt J, University of Arkansas School of Medicine; Kim HM, COIN-Ann Arbor; West B, University of MIchigan Institute for Social Research; Clive B, COIN-Ann Arbor; Walters H, COIN-Ann Arbor; Lepkowski J, University of MIchigan Institute for Social Research

We conducted the first assessment of a nationally representative sample of veteran and non-veteran college students regarding levels of mental health symptoms, suicidal ideation and behaviors, and mental health treatment use.

Veteran students were selected for survey participation using a stratified cluster sample design and two-stage sampling. Sixty post-secondary institutions were selected, stratified by numbers of enrolled Veteran students, college control (e.g., public, private not-for-profit, and private for-profit), and years of education provided (four versus two years). Veterans were matched with civilian students by age and gender. Using base survey weights, we compared veteran and non-veteran students on levels of depressive, PTSD, and anxiety symptoms. We also assessed risky drinking, suicidal ideation and perceived need for and use of mental health treatment.

Between March 2014 and October 2015, 6,710 students were invited to complete an on-line survey; 2,071 surveys were received (response rate: 31%; 35% veteran and 27% civilian students). Veteran respondents were more likely to be male (77.0% vs 66.1%, p < 0.0001), older (? = 32.4 vs 29.7 years, p < 0.001) and white (63.7% vs 62.0% white, p < .0001). Adjusting for demographic factors, Veteran students were more likely to have a positive: depression screen (33.9% vs 23.1%, p = < .001); PTSD screen (32.3% vs 20.2%, p = < .01); anxiety screen (27.7% vs 18.8%, p = < .01); and risky drinking (38.8% vs 31.2%, p = .001). However differences in past year suicidal ideation (13.8% vs 11.0%, p = .16) and attempts (2.0% vs 1.3%, p = .21) were not significant. Adjusting for mental health symptoms, Veteran students were more likely to perceive mental health treatment need (35.5% vs 25.7%, p = .001) and to receive treatment (25.7% vs 16.3%,p < .001). 32.5% of veteran students with > = 1 positive mental health screen reported treatment use in the past year.

In this nationally representative sample, Veteran students were more likely to report significant mental health symptoms. Suicide ideation and behaviors were lower than previously reported and comparable to civilian students. Veterans were more likely to receive treatment.

Veteran students report more mental health difficulties but also report greater treatment use. Nevertheless, they continue to need support, outreach and programming from the VA and their educational institutions.