By Debbie Gregory.
A recent study has revealed that Veteran students have a difficult time overcoming the use of avoidance coping strategies, often linked to anxiety and depression. Using avoidance coping strategies means that one minimizes or completely ignores negative thoughts or emotions. But with the support of their families and friends, they increase their probability for success.
The study was conducted by the Veterans Experiencing the Transition to Students (VETS) project, which is directed by Dr. Shelley Riggs, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of North Texas (UNT). For the study, 165 Veterans, from every military branch, who are currently attending one of three universities in Texas were surveyed. Of these students, 117 of them had been deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Veteran participants were surveyed about psychological symptoms, including PTSD, depression and anxiety. The Veteran students were also asked questions in regards to other aspects of their lives, including questions about their adjustment to college life, their sense of connection to their college communities, their coping styles, personal and romantic relationships, and their support networks.
The findings of the data collected through the survey showed that Veterans had a tendency to rely on avoidance coping strategies for stress. This type of coping strategy is prevalent (and, at times, is necessary) for service members who have missions to accomplish. But for those who have separated, the continued use of this type of coping strategy is often tied with anxiety and depression, and tends to interfere with a Veteran’s successful adaptation and psychological functioning in a school setting.
The study also found that Veterans who used problem-focused coping strategies, such as identifying problematic stress, and then took the necessary measures to resolve or overcome it, reported significantly lower levels of depression and generalized anxiety symptoms. But this was only successful in the cases who reported high levels of emotional support from family members.
Having a healthy support network has been found to be a vital component to the success of transitioning Veterans, in school, in the workplace and in their homes. Veterans need to make sure that they keep the lines of communication with their family and close friends open.
Like the message found in the popular song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Veterans should remind themselves that they, too, can get by with a little help from their friends… and family.
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Military Connection: Study Finds that Veterans Need Support to Cope: By Debbie Gregory