About half of West Virginia’s veterans are facing some type of depression or post traumatic stress disorder, and one in five struggles with suicidal thoughts, according to a study presented to a legislative interim committee Tuesday.
Dr. Joseph Scotti, a West Virginia University professor, on Tuesday presented the results of a survey of 1,200 veterans, to the Select Committee on Veterans Affairs.
The results show widespread mental health issues facing the state’s veterans of all ages. About half of younger veterans have post traumatic stress disorder, while a quarter of older veterans have similar obstacles, Scotti said.
“If we look at the information in terms of the number of people who meet the clinical cutoff for depression and or post traumatic stress disorder, we’re at 50 percent,” Scotti said.
The survey looked at depression symptoms, such as sleeplessness, feelings of guilt, low self worth, lack of appetite, suicidal thoughts and more.
The results show veterans with depression and PTSD, as well as exposure to extended combat, are at the most risk of suicide. Scotti said about 20 percent of veterans could be a suicide risk.
“This is pretty serious,” Scotti said. “These are folks, I guess you could say, that one more thing or two more things could push them to the edge.”
Veterans from conflicts going back to World War II were part of the survey. At least one veteran from each county took part in the survey; the average age was 54.
In addition to mental health issues, veterans also showed some financial problems and significant health concerns. The obesity rate among veterans is significantly higher than the national average, Scotti said.
Scotti urged lawmakers to create a public information campaign to talk about the issues. He said veterans are likely to continue to be at risk of having depression and health problems.
“I think we need to get out there and be saying these are the risk factors,” Scotti said. “These are the things you should be looking at.”