Traumatic brain injuries and mental health have a close connection. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to many physical, emotional and behavioral changes in a survivor. These changes could cause an overall decrease in a survivor’s enjoyment and/or quality of life. A TBI may also cause conditions such as depression and anxiety. Together, these factors unique to TBIs could ultimately increase the risk of suicide.
TBIs and Suicide
Multiple studies have shown a link between TBIs and suicidal thoughts and actions in survivors. Most of these studies identify the highest risk of suicide in the first six months after a brain injury. Daily struggles with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and cognitive issues can drive some patients to suicide. The risk of suicide is around three times as high in the first six months after a TBI than afterward, according to some estimates. An extensive study in Denmark, however, focused on the long-term increases in the risk of suicide for people with TBIs.
In the long term, a traumatic brain injury can alter the way the brain works, making it difficult for a survivor to do things he or she used to be able to do easily. These may include exercising, enjoying favorite activities, engaging in sports or hobbies, playing with kids, comprehending basic facts, and communicating with loved ones. A TBI can impact communication, comprehension, basic math skills, memory, motor skills and more. These changes can lead to depression in survivors, who may start to feel hopeless or frustrated about the future. Issues such as losing one’s job can exacerbate these feelings.
A TBI can also impact a survivor’s emotions, leading to feelings the person may not have had before. These can include frustration, irritability, insensitivity, aggression, anger and sadness. Personality changes and issues such as mood swings and outbursts are also common. Overwhelming negative feelings on top of difficulties with day-to-day activities or an overall decrease in quality of living can increase the risk of suicide for someone with a brain injury.
Warning Signs of Suicide in a TBI Survivor
If you have a loved one who survived a traumatic brain injury, keep the increased risk of suicide in mind. Watch for any potential warning signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. Life events such as divorce, substance abuse, unemployment, or depression diagnoses can make suicidal thoughts or actions even more likely. Detectable signs can mean a heightened risk of suicide in the following minutes or days. Act quickly to get your loved one help if you notice any red flags.
- Making statements about suicide
- Threatening self-harm
- Seeking access or information to means of suicide
- Talking about feelings of hopelessness
- Withdrawing from social activities
- Posting about suicide on social media
- Purchasing a gun
- Refusing to receive treatment for depression
- Isolating oneself
- Abusing alcohol and/or drugs
- Displaying severe mood swings
If you notice any potential signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors in your loved one, take immediate action. Request assistance from a crisis hotline 24/7, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Do not leave your loved one alone. Call 911 if you have an emergency. Tell a trusted friend or family member about what is happening. Encourage your loved one to talk about his or her feelings with a professional. Do not keep any promises to keep suicidal thoughts a secret. Offer support by being someone your loved one can talk to, setting up professional assistance, encouraging communication, and reassuring him or her that things will get better.
Your Legal Rights as Someone With a TBI
If you or a family member sustained a traumatic brain injury in a preventable accident in Texas, consider your legal rights while you seek treatments for your physical and emotional injuries. The person who caused your accident may be legally responsible for your TBI and related treatments – including psychological care and therapies. A defendant may be liable for your emotional distress, mental anguish and lost quality of life as well as your economic damages. Contact a Dallas brain injury lawyer for advice about a TBI lawsuit and emotional distress.