The Link Between Teen Head Injuries and Death by Suicide

29
May 2014
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Many different risk factors can increase the likelihood of a young person having suicidal thoughts or attempting to die by suicide. While most parents and counselors are familiar with the potential impact that bullying and depression can have on the likelihood of a teen attempting death by suicide, there is also another danger that may not be so apparent. Emerging research indicates that a teenager who has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may have a greater risk of taking his or her own life.

Mental health professionals need to be aware of factors that increase a teen’s likelihood of death by suicide and must act to protect their patients. A suicide attorney should be consulted in situations where a mental health counselor has potentially failed to live up to his obligations with teens.

The Link Between TBI and Suicidal Thoughts or Attempts

According to Psych Central, a traumatic brain injury can result in “significantly greater odds” that a teenager will make an attempt. This is true even if the TBI was a simple concussion. Teens with a TBI had three times the chances of attempting suicide, and twice the chances of being bullied either at school or online.

Researchers identified this link by reviewing data collected as part of the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. The survey initially began as a method of studying drug use but has been broadened to ask questions about adolescent well-being and health. It is one of the longest ongoing school studies worldwide and almost 9,000 students participate. The students range from grade seven to grade 12.

In 2011, questions about traumatic brain injury were added to the study for the first time. Prior research shows that as many as 20 percent of adolescents in Ontario had experienced a TBI over the course of their lives.

The comprehensive nature of the new study allowed for connections to be drawn between a history of TBI and an attempt to die by suicide.  Mental health experts know that TBIs can exacerbate both mental health and behavioral problems, so it is important to understand this link.

Research revealed that a teenager who had a prior TBI was more likely to become a bully or to be bullied; and was also more likely to have been prescribed medication for anxiety, for depression or both. Teens with a prior TBI also had greater odds of breaking and entering; selling drugs; running away from home; damaging property; getting into fights at school; carrying weapons and setting fires.

Because of the far-reaching consequences of a TBI, prevention should always be the top goal, especially as many traumatic brain injuries are suffered during recreational or athletic activities and could be prevented by the use of helmets.

Unfortunately, once a brain injury has occurred, the only option is to watch carefully for signs of problems. It is essential for “primary physicians, schools, parents, and coaches” to be vigilant in monitoring adolescents who have suffered a brain injury.  Counselors should also provide the assistance these teens need to cope and avoid behavioral problems or thoughts of suicide.

A suicide attorney at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help. Call (214) 618-8222 to schedule a free case consultation.

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