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Long-Term Effect of Traumatic Brain Injury is An Increased Risk of Suicide

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Oct 1, 2018

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can be debilitating, with innumerable physical and intellectual consequences. For many people who sustain severe TBIs, it is impossible to return to life the way it was before the accident. According to a recent study published in JAMA, a peer-reviewed medical journal, head trauma can also lead to a sharp increase in the risk of suicide. Physicians should recognize that risk and should take steps in order to mitigate the risk of a brain injury patient committing suicide.

Risk of Suicide Nearly Doubles After a Traumatic Brain Injury

The key takeaway from the recent study is that the risk of suicide nearly doubles for a person who has sustained a traumatic brain injury. The researchers who conducted the study looked at nearly 35,000 suicides over more than three decades, and explored those records in connection with TBI diagnoses. They had two major findings. The first is that the risk of suicide increases sharply after an individual suffers a TBI. The second major finding is that the risk of suicide increases more for patients with severe TBIs. Indeed, “the risk of suicide was even higher for people who had experienced severe traumatic brain injury and who had numerous medical visits or longer hospital stays related to the condition.”

Injury victims who sustain TBIs are at greatest risk of suicide in the six months following the injury, and the patients with the highest risk are those with the longest hospital stays to treat the head trauma.

When the researchers talk about traumatic brain injuries, what do they mean? The Mayo Clinic defines a TBI as an injury that “usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body.” Severe TBIs can occur from “an object that penetrates brain tissue, such as a bullet or a shattered piece of skull.” Mild TBIs can also be debilitating and should be taken seriously. Concussions are one form of mild traumatic brain injury.

How Physicians Can Help to Lessen the Risk of Suicide After a TBI

Doctors play an important role in mitigating the risk of suicide after a patient suffers a TBI. First, and most importantly, the authors of the study emphasize the need to prevent TBIs from happening in the first place. But once a patient has suffered a TBI, there are multiple types of early interventions that can be successful in preventing a suicide. For example, physicians who treat patients with TBIs can arrange for the patient to see a counselor, as well as to become involved in both physical and occupational therapy. Patients who have “strong social support networks” are less likely to turn to suicide in the aftermath of a head injury.

Even though the study reveals a link between suicide risk and TBI, it is important to underscore that there remain many “unknowns” about brain trauma. For example, researchers still do not know “the exact mechanism” that links suicide risk with a brain injury. Beyond that, there is still much research to be done on the long-term effects of TBIs.

Contact a Brain Injury Lawyer About Your Case

Brain trauma can have serious and life-altering consequences, especially TBIs. Despite the fact that medical researchers have cited numerous long-term costs of traumatic brain injuries, there remain many unknown impacts such as the very serious increased risk of suicide. If you or someone you love recently suffered a brain injury, you should learn more about your options. An experienced brain injury attorney can help. Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth for more information about how we can assist with your claim.

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