Depression & Suicide Among Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries

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Suicide Depression and Head Injuries
After a traumatic brain injury (TBI), patients experience a number of different challenges during the recovery process. In addition to the mental and physical difficulties, patients can experience emotional and behavioral changes. Though it may be difficult to talk about, a lot of patients may have feelings of depression or hopelessness, or even have thoughts of suicide. Feelings like these can be brought on by the stress of the injury and rehabilitation process, though damage to areas of your brain in charge of your emotional responses can also have an impact on how you feel.

A recent report reveals that major depressive disorder (MDD) may be the most common and challenging mental health condition that patients encounter following a TBI—53.1% of TBI patients in the study experienced MDD at least once in the first year after their injury. Another study showed that suicidal thoughts and attempts are also common reactions to TBI—23% of the participants had thoughts of suicide, while 17% actually attempted suicide after their injury. These higher rates of suicidal behaviors may also be connected to MDD following TBI. Though these statistics may seem a little scary, it doesn’t mean that you have to be without hope when it comes to coping with these issues during recovery; a good TBI treatment center should recognize that addressing their patients’ mental health issues is a key component of the recovery process.

SUICIDE ATTEMPTS CAN CAUSE BRAIN & HEAD INJURIES

Though there’s a lot of research showing increased rates of depression and suicide attempts following a TBI, there is another aspect of the story that’s worth considering—suicide attempts as causes of brain injuries, not just effects of them. Oftentimes, depression or other mental health issues exist prior to a brain injury. Sadly, the feelings experienced as a result of such issues can lead to suicide attempts, which appear to be responsible for a large number of the intentional injuries that cause TBIs. In these situations, addressing your mental health history with your health care team will be an especially important part of the recovery process.

Of course, the recovery process for brain-injured patients can be incredibly stressful on its own. Adding in feelings of depression or suicide may make some of the emotional aspects of recovery even more difficult—all of these things thrown together can seem like a series of overwhelming hurdles to jump. However, that doesn’t mean they’re un-jumpable. Regardless of how or when they are experienced, things like depression and suicidal thoughts must be addressed in your recovery process. Perhaps working with a health care team that includes mental health specialists could help create a more well-rounded approach to your treatment. No matter what, it’s critical that you to talk with someone on your team in order to figure out how to tackle the different feelings you or a loved one may be experiencing during this difficult time.

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.

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8 Responses to Depression & Suicide Among Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries

  1. Celia August 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    My little brother which is 26 tried hanging himself. He has been having suicidal thoughts when he drinks. Almost a year ago he was involved in a fight which his head was injured with an object and the head was very swollen. The X-ray showed everything was okay? Do u think we should take him to get x-rayed again? I really don’t know how to help him since he gets irritated easily. Thanks

    • Nadine October 2, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      I am not a doctor, but am living with a loved one that suffered TBI, or traumatic brain injury. I am also a special education teacher. Irritation, mood swings and anger can be signs of TBI. Any jarring or trauma to the head can change the electrical patterns. A neurologist and neurosurgeon diagnosed the areas of the brain in my loved one that was affected through a brain scan. Medications have helped, but we are always on “call”. Alcohol can also play a big roll in TBI patients and the brain. Some TBI patients do not remember how much they drink, or when. This is also true when have medications. That is why they are often monitored with meds by a caregiver. Hope this helps.

    • juan August 17, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

      My brother was jumped on by a group of thugs and they beat him. He was hospitalized and bleeding from the brain. A year later he did hang himself. Your article was three yrs ago, so I hope your brother is better.

  2. Larry May 6, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I hit my head in a car accident and have been emotional and angered easily. Nobody understands really and probably thinks I am making it up or something. I am depressed and think of killing myself and have come close a bunch of times. I am alone most of the time and cannot stand to be around people. I get stressed by just about anything and get angry at nothing, even if nothing is going on I will mentally create something in my mind. I can’t remember anything on a list or too many numbers, have trouble with math and get confused all the time. I am afraid that I will hurt someone. I don’t have insurance so screw me right? no help only tests that do not help at all. I don’t understand why this is all happening to me and can’t control it. I do not think I can go on doing it… Maybe this will help you understand what this is all about?

    • Julie July 21, 2014 at 3:21 am #

      Larry

      I had car accident 14 years ago, and ended up fracturing my skull. This happened in Brisbane while i was living there, but a year later, moved back to NZ to be with my family. I couldn’t get ANY help from dr’s here, as ACC wouldn’t cover it. I’m only getting help THIS year as a result of me nearly doing the haka up and down their butts to get some help and I am. You need to speak to your GP, if that person won’t listen, then go somewhere else. You need help and I sooooo understand the frustration of it all mate.
      The longer it’s left, the harder things get.

  3. Wendy July 3, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    I have had 14 brain injuries in my life. First one was when I was 5 (unconscious after hitting head ice-skating). Have had multiple “mild” concussions – no loss of consciousness, but memory loss, confusion, etc. and at least 3 other major concussions. I now have epilepsy and my last bad tbi was July 19, 2012, when I went into grand mal seizure while jumping a horse. I landed on my head while seizing. Screwed my brain up really good – didn’t know who president was, year, etc. Have had 4 more brain injuries – last one was actually food poisoning, where vomitting caused my head to feel like it was going to explode. Packed my head in ice, and after 15 minutes was able to manage headache with tylenol/advil/valium. Am now stuck taking these 3 things together 3 to 4 times a day. Still feeling head-injured from headache. Anyone else have this happen? Memory is bad, and not sure what day/year it is. Keep thinking its 2014 or 2015 and the day is Friday (sometimes Wednesday) – so at least somedays I’m right! Can’t be bothered with what month it is. Feeling very alone, lots of people hate me because I was on Topomax which made me a very awful person for 2 years – became suicidal, self-cutting, bitchy, loud mouthed, mean to everyone. So now I’m off Topomax and just sad and lonely. I know I don’t really want to die, but I am so tired of so many people not liking me. I grew up with my life only having meaning if I kept people around me happy, and now I can’t do that, I have mood swings, get angry/depressed really easily. Feel like whole world is against me. Sometimes wish I would just get stage 4 cancer and start saying my good-byes, which is horrible, because I feel really sad about the people who actually have this, and don’t want to die. No one seems to get psychological pain I am in and no one wants to be around a loser. I get that. I’ve lost my creative side (used to knit, weave, make jewelry, learning piano, etc.) but have lost all interest in creating. I’m broke (in debt) and can’t afford therapy. Wish I could find a support group, but no luck there either. Might try al-anon, as I’m living with a drunk. And at this rate I’m becoming one myself – 3 drinks per day – one at noon, 2 in the evening. And have tons of psychological issues – trichillomania, depression, anxiety, and now stupidity – used to be smart mathematician/computer person, but brain doesn’t think that wide and far anymore, very tunnel visioned. Does anyone else feel mis-understood and that people hate them – due to meds they were on, or behaviors that only occured due to meds or tbi? How do I let them know I want to try friendship again? or do I just move on and hope to meet new friends/?? Can anyone relate to this mess????

  4. Wade February 16, 2015 at 6:34 am #

    I had a TBI at 6yrs old (hockey) coma 2 days. At 19 a TBI loss of memory 2 weeks, blood clot in the brain, tenitis, and seizures. I am and turning 50 now. Recovering alcoholic. Depressed constantly, anger is very often. Thoughts of suicide still creep in from time to time. There is no help out there, except pill pushing doctors. Can anyone lead me in a better direction????

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  1. Depression & Suicide Among Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries | Debbie's Story - November 18, 2014

    […] Share on emailMore Sharing Services After a traumatic brain injury (TBI), patients experience a number of different challenges during the recovery process. In addition to the mental and physical difficulties, patients can experience emotional and behavioral changes. Though it may be difficult to talk about, a lot of patients may have feelings of depression or hopelessness, or even have thoughts of suicide. Feelings like these can be brought on by the stress of the injury and rehabilitation process, though damage to areas of your brain in charge of your emotional responses can also have an impact on how you feel. A recent report reveals that major depressive disorder (MDD) may be the most common and challenging mental health condition that patients encounter following a TBI—53.1% of TBI patients in the study experienced MDD at least once in the first year after their injury. Another study showed that suicidal thoughts and attempts are also common reactions to TBI—23% of the participants had thoughts of suicide, while 17% actually attempted suicide after their injury. These higher rates of suicidal behaviors may also be connected to MDD following TBI. Though these statistics may seem a little scary, it doesn’t mean that you have to be without hope when it comes to coping with these issues during recovery; a good TBI treatment center should recognize that addressing their patients’ mental health issues is a key component of the recovery process. […]

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