Study Links Brain Injuries to Soldiers’ Suicidal Thoughts June 5, 2013.

A recent study of 157 active-duty soldiers and four civilian contractors has revealed that people who’ve suffered multiple concussions throughout their lifetime are more likely to contemplate suicide than those who’ve never suffered a concussion, according to Pacific Standard magazine.

Until this study, few others had investigated the link between traumatic brain injury and suicide, but TBI has been one of the most common injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan, and "[s]uicide is currently the second leading cause of death among military members," the magazine reported.

In fact, 303 active-duty soldiers killed themselves in 2011 and another 349 killed themselves in 2012. This prompted 53 Congress members to pen a March 4, 2013, letter to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, stating, in part, that the number of suicides has reached "unacceptably high levels."

Though everyone has his or her own reason for contemplating suicide, as Frontline stated, and the study’s lead author, Craig J. Bryan, cautioned that his narrow research can’t prove that someone who suffers a concussion will contemplate suicide, a person who suffers repeated concussions does become "more sensitized," and "it becomes easier for that individual to experience depression and suicidal (thoughts) as a result."

Still, the assistant professor of psychology’s study revealed:

  • 18 participants had never been diagnosed with a concussion, and none of those participants reported contemplating suicide;
  • 58 participants had been diagnosed with one concussion, and seven percent of those participants reported contemplating suicide;
  • 85 participants had been diagnosed with several concussions, and 22 percent of those participants reported contemplating suicide.

Further, "[s]ome service members sustained as many as 15 traumatic brain injurieswhile deployed," and "[a]n estimated 20 percent of service members sustained concussions during basic training," per Frontline. Others suffered head injuries playing sports before enlisting.

Interestingly, "mild head injuries tend to be more likely to lead to suicidal thoughts than more severe ones," Bryan said. "Resiliency is the rule. I want those who have experienced traumatic brain injuries, no matter how many, to realize that things are going to be OK, and that there’s hope, and there’s services available, and that the treatment works."

Below, Cleveland, Ohio, traumatic brain injury attorney Christopher Mellino discusses common causes of brain injuries and how the severity of a brain injury is measured.

Common Causes of Brain Injury:


Can the Severity of a Brain Injury Be Measured?