September 9-15, 2012, is the 38th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week – a week dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. In the United States, suicide is the tenth leading cause of all deaths and the third leading cause among individuals between the ages of 15 to 24.
It is estimated that one American completes suicide every 14.2 minutes with approximately 922,725 Americans attempting each year. However, depression alone might not always be the cause of suicide or suicidal thoughts.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are caused by bumps, blows or jolts to the head that disturb everyday functions of the brain. Although not all blows to the head result in a TBI, the severity can range from mild, with only a temporary change in mental stability or consciousness, to severe, where there is an extended period of unconsciousness or even amnesia after the injury.
Despite victims of a TBI appearing well, they may still be suffering from short- or long-term changes that affect thinking, sensation, language or even emotions, creating depression, aggression and other forms of unusual behavior. Studies have found that in patients who have experienced a TBI, suicide rates are increased two to three times when compared to those without a TBI, depending on the individual.
Dave Duerson, the former Chicago Bears safety and two-time Super Bowl champion, took his own life after struggling with symptoms he said in suicide notes he suspected were caused by a TBI. Although the concussions he acquired from football appeared mild in nature, medical studies have found that long periods of rest and complete mental inactivity are required for recovery from even the most harmless of concussions. Also, there is some evidence that multiple repeated concussions, like the kind a professional football player might experience, can increase damage to the brain.
Military researchers have even begun their own studies to help aid the suicide epidemic our veterans are now facing linked to TBIs, post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating emotional and physical complications resulting from battle. TBI is a common injury resulting from concussive blasts, and has been dubbed the “signature injury” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With 154 suicides of active-duty troops within the first 155 days of the year reported by the Pentagon, TBIs are being recognized more and more as a serious threat, short-term and long-term, for society.
For more information on suicide or if you or a loved one are in need of immediate help, visit the American Association of Suicidology’s website at www.suicidology.org or call their emergency hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).