The severity of PTSD symptoms moderated the relationship between suicidality and depression, "something for all clinicians to be mindful of in day-to-day practice," the researchers wrote, as PTSD symptoms "can often times be overlooked when comorbid with significant depression, hopelessness, and suicidality."
"Sometimes, clinicians query about the most prominent symptoms, and that can be depression," Rudd said in an email to MedPage Today. "Also, it's important to recognize that some of those struggling with PTSD have not had 'direct' combat exposure."
For instance, Rudd said, even those in support positions "are exposed to the threat of violence in a combat zone, even if indirectly, so it's sometimes overlooked."
He and colleagues concluded that it's important to consider whether colleges and universities are adequately prepared to treat student veterans when needed, since treating combat-related trauma and suicide risk requires special training.
They noted that they're "not aware" of any data on the preparedness of campus counseling centers to meet demand for these services, although some have responded by setting up Student Veteran Service Centers.
Broad-based screening for student veterans may also be worth considering, the researchers said.
The study was limited by self-reported data and its cross-sectional nature. Also, it has a limited ability to evaluate psychiatric conditions because it relied on brief screening measures, particularly in terms of assessing PTSD, which also requires clinical examination to diagnose.