Accessing Counseling Services
Your experience as a student veteran offers unique challenges that can impact your educational success and attainment at DU. At the Health and Counseling Center, we understand these challenges and are here to help our student veterans succeed.
We offer a host of confidential counseling services to our student veterans. This can include individual, couples, or group counseling. If you are unsure about counseling or utilizing our services, feel free to drop in to our Lets Talk program offered at various locations and times around campus.
Veteran Challenges on a College Campus
(Adapted materials from www.jmu.edu)
The process of transitioning from the military life to a college campus can involve unexpected stressors and difficulties. All of the sudden, you are in an environment where flip-flops and sneakers have replaced combat boots and there is a cafeteria instead of a chow hall. College sweatshirts are worn instead of camouflage and gone are the days of saluting senior personnel. Those are a few obvious differences, but more subtle issues can also arise.
“Who am I?”
Developing an identity as a former service member/current college student can be more challenging than anticipated. Finding ways to figure out who you are while transitioning will be a major part of adjusting to the civilian world.
“What do I have in common with them?”
Maturity, age differences, deployment and/or combat experience can result in feeling alienated from other college students. Making life or death decisions and being part of a larger mission may make it difficult to understand typical college worries like grades or getting picked to join a fraternity. Feeling isolated on campus can also be affected by attitudes towards the military and war.
“How can I find meaning?”
Elements of college life can feel trivial when you used to make decisions that impacted other soldiers and had potentially serious consequences. You are now making decisions autonomously and possibly more frequently. Developing ways to make your new life feel significant and meaningful will be part of the transitional process.
“I thought I was done dealing with a bureaucracy!”
Learning the skills of navigating the higher education system can take time. There are structural and procedural differences between chains of command and academic administration. Understanding rules and routines of the college campus and how to communicate with various people on campus will be important.
“Even though I’m back in CONUS, what if I don’t feel safe on campus?”
There may be lingering psychological effects resulting from your experiences in the military. Finding ways to manage what may come up for you will be important. Sitting near a door or with your back to the wall in order to increase feelings of security may help you tolerate after effects.
“How do I know when I need help?”
Some signs to be aware of include:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Suicidal thoughts , feelings or behaviors
- Problems concentrating
- Abusing alcohol or other drugs
- Pervasive problems with authority
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Uncontrollable worry or nervousness
- Feelings of hopeless or helplessness
- Frequent experiences of irritability/anger/rage
- Inability to experience or express a full range of emotions
- Hypervigilance and being easily startled by noises or sudden movements
- Sense of a foreshortened future
- Feeling detached or distance from others
- Diminished interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Intrusive memories/dreams of combat or other traumatic events
- Avoidance of anything related to past military experiences
- Reliving past events that cause high levels of emotional distress
From Combat to Campus: The Transition from Military Life to College
Find ways to make develop and maintain relationships with other students members. Being a military veteran can result in feeling isolated or alienated from other students. Putting forth the time and effort to connect with others on campus can help you feel more increasingly connected to their university. Involvement in student organizations and activities can help with finding others that have common interests and break down barriers.
Get To Know Your Professors. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Professors and faculty can assist you in learning course materials and can make recommendations on strategies to get the most out of the class curriculum.
Maintain Good Academic Habits. Begin school with a courseload that is manageable for you and set realistic expectations. Develop a daily schedule, stay organized and take comprehensive notes to get the most out of lectures and course materials. Incorporate several short breaks while studying, if you find yourself easily distracted.
Limit Alcohol Intake and Other Substances. Drinking or using illegal substances to cope with stress increases the likelihood of depression, relationship difficulties, academic problems and can have a negative impact on other areas of your life. Finding healthy ways to manage stress and utilizing support will increase the chances of you getting the most out of your college experience.
Become Familiar With and Use School Resources. The Center for Multicultural Excellence, Office of the Chaplain, Financial Aid Office, the Learning Effectiveness Program or the Health and Counseling Center (groups or crisis consultation and other services depending on insurance coverage) are available here to improve your campus experience.
Take Care of Yourself. Exercise, eat well and make sure to get plenty of rest. You want to be able to learn as much as possible during your college experience. Letting yourself get overwhelmed and stressed out won’t help you achieve your academic goals.
Have a Standard Answer Regarding Your Military Service. Some people may be curious or ask questions that feel intrusive regarding your personal experience in the military and on deployments. You may have to agree to disagree and respectfully decline answering questions that make you feel uncomfortable.
Connect with Other Veterans on Campus. Oftentimes it can be helpful to have the connections and support of other veterans when transitioning to the civilian world. Having people around that understand your prior military life, as well as the current challenges in transitioning to college can be a critical element of support as you work towards your college degree.
Adapted materials from studentveterans.org and jmu.edu)
Mental Health Resources for Veterans in the Denver Area
VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System - (888) 336-8262
Denver Vet Center – (303) 326-0645
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center – (866) 966-1020
- The DCoE Outreach Center specializes in providing in-depth information and resources related to the spectrum of PH matters and TBI. Health consultants are available 24/7 to respond to specific research requests by phone, e-mail, chat and fax.
Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund - (888) 331-3311