CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One in five West Virginia veterans are at risk for suicide while half show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or both, researchers told lawmakers on Tuesday.
The figures come from a recent survey of more than 1,200 state veterans, which also found higher than normal rates for obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, West Virginia University psychology professor Joseph Scotti said. The study was commissioned by the Legislature.
The findings prompted Scotti and the survey team to recommend a comprehensive plan to provide needed mental health services to veterans. Such a plan should include a public service campaign to alert veterans to available resources, educating health care providers and working more closely with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in the state, Scotti told the House-Senate Select Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“The VA can’t do it alone,” Scotti said.
Close to 170,000 West Virginians are veterans, more than one in 10 adults, according to the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau. Just 11 states have a larger segment of veterans among their residents. More than two-thirds of West Virginia’s veterans are 55 or older, while around 7 percent have served since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the estimate.
Conducted last year, the survey asked veterans about such topics as health, work, education and family. Scotti and fellow WVU professor Roy Tunick, who teaches rehabilitation counseling and counseling psychology, helped design the survey and analyze the results. Atlas Research, a service-disabled veteran owned small business, managed the project.