Student Veterans

While the vast majority of veterans attending Dartmouth are very successful and will graduate, the transition to college after military life can be a difficult one, especially after a deployment.

The Post-Deployment Experience

Deployment experiences can sometimes leave you feeling alienated from others and feeling "different." In addition, the structure of military life may not carry over to your college studies, so that managing your own time and schedule becomes a surprising challenge. You may be finding that the combat training that served you well in the military is not serving you so well now. Or perhaps your experience of being deployed has left you feeling overwhelmed and not like your old self. You are not alone. Research has found that many returning armed services members experience social, physical, emotional, financial, and academic challenges when making the transition to civilian life.

Common symptoms of those exposed to extreme stress and the war zone environment include:

  • Re-experiencing traumatic events through intrusive memories or nightmares
  • Attempts to avoid reminders of the event
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling down, sad, or depressed
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Difficulty being able to calm down
  • Feeling keyed up and anxious
  • Becoming easily startled
  • Feeling irritable and angry
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Difficulty with motivation
  • Feeling empty or numb
  • Having thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or take your life
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Overuse of alcohol and other drugs
  • No longer enjoying activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty connecting and relating to others
  • Feeling paranoid that others are watching you or want to harm you

What Can I Do?

If you are experiencing difficulties with transitioning back into civilian life, you may find the following tips helpful:

Be patient with yourself

  • If you are finding the transition difficult, you may find that you are becoming frustrated with yourself for not being able to live the way you once did. It is important to remember that you are dealing with a lot right now and expecting yourself to be able to handle things the way you once did may not be realistic. The reaction you are having does not mean you are weak. It is a common response to stress and trauma. The good news is that what you are experiencing is likely temporary and will eventually pass.

Re-establish current relationships and develop new ones

  • Experiencing combat can leave Veterans feeling alone and isolated from others. It can also make it hard to maintain relationships with friends, family, and significant others. Additionally, you may have found that you returned from deployment to find your relationships have changed and don't feel the same to you. Although you may not feel like working on these relationships, it is important to make attempts to work through these issues and have an open discussion with those you care about. You may also want to try joinng clubs or organizations, especially those that will allow you to connect with other Veterans. The Dartmouth Undergraduate Veterans Association (DUVA) is one example. Connecting with other Veterans can make the transition to civilian life easier for you.

Understand and express your emotions

  • Combat can leave one feeling a range of emotions, from emotionally numb to overwhelmed. Becoming aware of your emotions and finding healthy outlets for your emotions will help you deal with these feelings.

Plan and prepare for school

  • Coming to the classroom after returning from deployment may feel like it will be an easy task. However, Veterans returning from deployment often have to deal with many changes and adjustments and the transition to academics may not be as easy as you thought. One challenge might be if your old unit has been redeployed and friends are in harm's way. Try to schedule a manageable course load and set reasonable goals for yourself. Go to class and take good notes. Establishing a daily schedule will make the transition easier.

Take care of yourself

  • Eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. These activities are not just good for your physical well-being but they also help you increase your ability to manage stress. Many people find engaging in relaxation exercises helpful in reducing stress.

Monitor use of alcohol and other drugs

  • If you are having difficulty adjusting to civilian life, alcohol and other drugs may seem like a way to ease the transition. In reality, the use of alcohol and other drugs increases the likelihood of depression, insomnia, relationship problems, academic difficulties, among other things.

Grieve losses

  • If you lost a friend or comrade it is important to grieve the loss. This can be done a number of ways but usually involves finding a way to honor the memory of the person and saying goodbye. This may include writing a letter to the person, having a ceremony for them, or doing something in their honor, to name a few.

What If I Need More?

If you are experiencing more severe symptoms or find that these tips are not providing relief, you may want to consider counseling. Our clinical services are available to all full-time enrolled students at Dartmouth College. There is no charge for counseling services at the Counseling Center. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call 603-646-9442 or stop by the Counseling Center located on the second floor of Dick's House.

Your first appointment with the Counseling Center is called a "triage" appointment. The total appointment time is 45 minutes. The first 15 minutes are spent completing paperwork and an online assessment. You will then meet with a counselor for 30 minutes to discuss your concerns. At the end of the appointment the counselor will discuss treatment options that will best address your needs. Sometimes, students find the triage appointment has met their needs and no further services are necessary. When further services are needed, one or more of the following options may be recommended:

  • a referral to one of our workshops or therapy groups
  • an appointment for an Intake for short term therapy within the Counseling Center (Intake appointments are usually scheduled the following week to give students time to think about their goals for therapy)
  • a referral to other campus or community resources
  • a referral for a psychiatric medication evaluation
  • a referral to an off-campus mental health provider
  • if your situation is critical, we offer same-day crisis appointments

White River Junction, Vermont -VA Medical Center Affiliation

Since 2002, the Counseling Center has had a collaborative working relationship with the White River Jct, VA Medical Center Psychology Internship program (WRJ VAMC). The WRJ VAMC internship is composed of a number of core clinical experiences, including a nine month rotation (one day a week) at the Counseling Center. During their time at the Counseling Center, pre-doctoral interns see individual clients and receive intensive supervision by a Counseling Center licensed psychologist.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

After Deployment: Wellness resources for the military community—mission is to provide online wellness resources addressing common health challenges associated with deployment to military service members and families. Their mission is to provide online wellness resources addressing common health challenges associated with deployment to military service members and families.

Real Warriors Campaign—is a multimedia public awareness campaign designed to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans and military families coping with invisible wounds.

Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline - Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline is a groundbreaking crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Safe Helpline provides live, one-on-one advice, support, and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is anonymous, secure, and available 24/7 — providing victims with the help they need, anytime, anywhere.

Student Veterans of America - National organization that helps develop student Veteran groups on campuses and develop programs and policies to assist with Veteran transition to the classroom.