Thursday, August 11, 2011

Saying "Welcome Back" & Meaning It

20% of Veterans in College Have Planned to Commit Suicide:

Veterans in college are six times more likely to attempt suicide than the typical student and more than a fifth have planned to kill themselves, a new study presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting shows.

Universities are largely unprepared to meet the educational, and mental health needs, of the more than one million veterans expected to enter institutions of higher education in the next decade according to the report.

“If we don’t think [this] through, it’s going to be a significant and very difficult problem,” the study’s author, M.David Rudd said. “These [mental health] numbers were far higher than anticipated” and veterans are “having dramatically more difficulty than the typical student.”

The study shows that about half of veterans have contemplated killing themselves and that 82 percent of those who attempted suicide also struggled with significant post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Researchers say veterans often feel disconnected from their fellow students. This social separation, coupled with a “warrior mentality” can make seeking emotional help especially difficult.

Since the passage of the post-9/11 GI Bill, the number of veterans attending college has surged. While many universities have worked to welcome and support veterans on to their campuses, the transition has not always been smooth. In Maryland, Charles Whittington, an Iraq war veteran, was suspended from the Community College of Baltimore County after he wrote a paper about his addiction to killing that college administrators found “disturbing.” Other veterans have complained that fellow students are immature or constantly ask, “Did you kill anyone over there?”
Nice, and a complete reflection of the fantasy world most college students live in. In fact, it's reflective of the fantasy world most of higher ed. exists in these days, completely unaware of the problems these young men and women are facing when they return from war and find themselves in our midst.

So why are universities and colleges dropping the ball in recognizing and supporting these vets as they transition back into free society? Their number one reason is "budget cuts."
Yet these reccomendations (sic) may fall on deaf ears. As Claire Potter argues at The Chronicle of Higher Education, state governments are unlikely to fund the report’s recommendations. In the past two years states have already slashed the budgets that would have provided services for student veterans “from 10 to 20 percent across the nation”.
Another legacy of "austerity" for you. And I only half-buy the argument, frankly. Yes, the budget cuts have been devastating the last three years, but fundamentally it's up to the colleges and universities to institute those cuts. And proportionately, university bureaucrats always zero in on the easy programs (and employees) to get rid of.

Programs for student veterans, such as mental health counseling? Expendable. Balancing the budget on the backs of people making less than $25,000 a year (adjuncts, part-timers, temporaries, grad students, physical plant, building services, etc)? No problem.

But cut the six figure salaries of administrators (who, like mold, continue to spread faster than instruction or maintenance)? Out of the question.

My point being: the money is there. It's always been there and the propeller-heads know it. But veterans and suicide (and adjuncts & janitors) aren't sexy topics. They don't pull in a lot of big donations, look bad in the mental health statistics of the campus, and more importantly, don't win football games.

So, more and more vets on our college campuses will continue to suffer and wrestle with depression, post-traumatic stress, and the like, with some inevitably ending their own lives, while college and university administrators dine, dance and schmooze in our million dollar ornate buildings.

Welcome Back, indeed.

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