Every day, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States.

Kevin Yeates wants to reduce this number and has devoted his life to helping veterans and active military members recover from trauma.

Yeates, of Cedar Hill, Texas, is a veteran and doctoral student in the College of Education’s Counseling Psychology program. Prior to his enrollment at the University of Iowa in 2012, he served as a mental health technician in the U.S. Air Force for six years.

“The idea of being part of something bigger than myself really appealed to me, so I chose the Air Force and was assigned to be a mental health technician,” he says.

As a doctoral student at the College of Education, Yeates’ research has focused predominately in the area of suicide and suicide prevention, especially for veterans.

“Suicide is an equal-opportunity afflicter, and affects people of virtually all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. This is an area where by focusing prevention efforts towards it, we can make a concrete difference and save lives,” he says.

Yeates is one of 53 students in the Counseling Psychology program, which prepares candidates for a wide variety of careers in higher education, counseling centers, clinics, and hospitals.

“My flight commander and mentor while I was in the Air Force, Major Christopher Button, is an alumni of the University of Iowa’s Counseling Psychology program and led me to consider both Counseling Psychology as my field of study and, more specifically, towards the University of Iowa,” Yeates says.

The recipient of the inaugural Ernest T. Pascarella Military Veteran Promise Award, Yeates was awarded $1,000 toward his studies at the College of Education and to advance his career contributions as a civilian.

Scholarship Recipient

Yeates has a wealth of diverse experience, including working at the UI Center for Disabilities and Development, the Veterans’ Affairs Hospital, and the Iowa Department of Corrections. During his second year in his Ph.D. program, Yeates worked as a practicum counselor at the UI’s University Counseling Service, where he provided individual therapy services to students with anxiety and depressive disorders.

“This was my first clinical experience in the program and was a nice entry point to begin shaping my skills as a therapist,” he says.

Yeates is currently completing his clinical work at the Iowa City Shelter House’s Fairweather Lodge, a recovery program and affordable housing option for people with mental illness who are at high risk for homelessness.

“The big goal of the program is finding them employment and working with them to get through trauma,” he says.

Yeates credits the highly ranked and academically rigorous Counseling Psychology program at the College of Education for helping him gain the skills he needs to advocate for veterans. After he earns his doctoral degree, he plans to go back into the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program and offer his skills as a psychologist to veterans in need.

"We need to find a way to continue to help people who have served."

“These are not people who are broken; they joined the military, so they have a lot of strengths,” he says. “They’ve sacrificed so much — we need to find a way to continue to help people who have served.”