Science

Traumatic Brain Injury Makes Soldiers Suicidal

By Hilda Scott , May 16, 2013 08:07 PM EDT
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People in the military are at a higher risk for suicide if they suffer from more than one mild traumatic brain injury also known as TBI. A new study from the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah researched the psychological effects traumatic brain injury can have on soldiers.

Researchers gathered and evaluated data from a survey of 161 military personnel who were stationed in Iraq.  According to the research published Wednesday, May 15 in the journal, JAMA Psychiatry, data showed that the risk of suicidal thoughts increased significantly with the number of traumatic brain injury reports.

"Up to now, no one has been able to say if multiple TBIs, which are common among combat veterans, are associated with higher suicide risk or not," lead author Craig J. Bryan said in a press release. Bryan is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah and associate director of the National Center for Veterans Studies. 

"This study suggests they are, and it provides valuable information for professionals treating wounded combat servicemen and women to help manage the risk of suicide," Bryan said.

One in five participants of the study (21 percent), who sustained multiple traumatic brain injuries, reported thoughts of suicide. Among the participants that only suffered one TBI, the rate of suicidal thoughts was lower at 6.9 percent. For participants who reported no TBI, they reported having no thoughts of suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injury is a penetrating head injury that affects the brain's normal functions. The most common form of TBI is a concussion, such as a bump, blow or jolt to the head.

"Being aware of the number of a patient's head injuries and the interrelation with depression and other psychological symptoms may help us better understand, and thus moderate, the risk of suicide over time," Bryan said.

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