Almost 50% of veterans who have undergone mental health assessments have clinically high levels of suicidal ideation, meaning thoughts, consideration, and planning.
Professor Paul Ingram discovered that statistic at Texas Tech.
"Veterans experience mental health problems at rates that are much higher than the general population," Ingram said. "It's become an unfortunate part of the experience of serving, " he added.
While there are several tools to help diagnose veterans, Ingram is working to refine the process.
"I'm trying to figure out how can we make sure I know what's going on with them. Because different diagnoses have different treatments for different disorders and different people may have different things that they benefit from in the course of treatment," Ingram said.
VetStar, a branch of StarCare Specialty Health Systems, has helped more than 6,000 veterans, since it was founded 8 years ago.
Keith Rivers, a veteran himself, says the non-profit works to connect service members to the resources they need, including licensed counselors.
"We prefer to use a 'hand-up' instead of a 'hand-out,'" he said.
In the last few years mental health services for veterans have increased, but there are still ways to go.
According to a National Suicide Prevention report in 2019, 17 U.S. veterans commit suicide, every single day.
"It's hard for veterans to ask for help. So, you know, we try to build a rapport with them, with the veterans, Rivers said. "They feel comfortable, and they're honest, and open tell us what's really going on," he added.
Ingram says once someone does go through the difficult process of getting help, the problem is also sticking with it.
"Even if you do start, people do often stop therapy, they drop out, and there's a lot of good reasons for dropping out," Ingram said. "There's also reasons that aren't good and aren't helpful and that's when the symptoms are telling you to drop out," he said.
Ingram believes strides have been made, including "measurement-based care" that keeps track of mental health over time.