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Tips for helping student veterans return to school life.


A recent study by The Jed Foundation and MTV found that over 65% of college students personally know someone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. For veterans who have been deployed, coming home and transitioning to civilian and college life can be difficult. College culture is much different than military culture. To complicate matters, some veterans might struggle with emotional issues as a result of their service or the difficulty of the transition back. As part of the campus community, we can do a lot to help make this a smoother transition for veterans. You might be unsure about how to help or feel uncomfortable about how to approach a veteran. Here are some ideas.

Acclimate. There has been significant news coverage of the emotional and physical injuries that veterans deal with as a result of working in a war zone. These are very real problems that some veterans must address, but there are also significant assets they bring because of their experience and training. If you know or attend school with a veteran, the best thing you can do is help them make a smooth adjustment to college life, let them decide how much they want to discuss or emphasize their service, and be patient as they acclimate to their new routine.

Click here for Tips on Respectful Communication with Veterans.

Assist. It is estimated that 25 to 30 percent of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of a mental disorder or some cognitive difficulties. These “hidden injuries of war” are not surprising given the trauma of serving in a combat zone. It is important that veterans struggling with emotional health issues get the support they need as unaddressed problems can lead to serious consequences like substance abuse or suicide. With the right support and treatment, veterans dealing with mental health issues can still have a smooth transition and a healthy future.

Learn more about mental health conditions some veterans face and common warning signs of a problem.

Advocate. After sacrificing so much and working so hard to protect our country, our veterans deserve to be given a smooth, healthy transition as they return. This means ensuring that they have access to the professionals and services they need to address the physical and emotional wounds of war. You can become an advocate by joining IAVA’s (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) action network. Sign up now to receive occasional action alerts about ways to get involved.