11 December 2010

On campus resources for veterans

Last night was the last meeting of the semester for my student veterans organization.  We had speakers in addition to normal club business, and some excellent information was passed on-- here's a summary of the most important info, finding help from on campus agencies.

One speaker was from the student health clinic on campus, and she talked about the counseling services as well as the medical services provided by the clinic.  I've actually used the counseling services, and found them to be very helpful-- what makes an on campus clinic different than the VA hospital/clinic or Vet Center is that campus counselors are familiar with issues faced by students.  I know a lot of veterans, me included, start out with the impression that these counselors don't know about the issues faced by veterans.  That's true, to some degree; but they can still be very helpful in dealing with day to day issues.  A campus counseling service or clinic can also be a way to "test the waters"; if you're having trouble with school (or life in general), you can try talking to a professional without having to jump into the VA's system right away.  If it turns out you need more assistance than the campus clinic can provide, you'll at least have some idea what you're getting into.

The other speaker was from the campus disability resource center.  There is a real tendency, I think, for student veterans to not talk about having problems dealing with school.  We hear so often that because of our military service and what we've learned, we can ace classes-- and that's not always true.  Yes, we've learned discipline and motivation, but classes can be difficult and we can have trouble adjusting.  It's hard to look in the mirror one day and see a "disabled student" looking back at you.  (I wrote about this last semester, when I first talked to the disability resource center.)  That's why I made it a point during the meeting to talk about my very positive experience getting help with testing and note taking accommodations.  My theory is that even though no one wants to talk about it, hearing that someone else has been through the process and turned out ok will remove the barriers to getting help.

It's okay to walk into an office, and just say "This isn't working, I need help."  If you're not sleeping right, not eating right, having trouble getting homework done, feeling angry or frustrated or detached, you probably need some assistance.  That doesn't take anything away from your military service, or your career as a student.

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