Veterans with a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury are more than twice as likely as those without a TBI to commit suicide, researchers report. A new study shows that soldiers with traumatic brain injuries often endure unbearable emotional suffering when they return from Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the Department of Defense, 22% of all combat casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan result from brain injuries, roughly double the rate of the Vietnam War. The study suggests that veterans with a moderate or severe TBI are more than twice as likely as those without a TBI to die by suicide. Additionally, veterans with a moderate or severe TBI are at a higher risk of dying by suicide with a firearm.
Doctors may overlook TBIs and fail to diagnose them amidst other behavioral health problems following deployment. Since TBI symptoms can show up months, even years, later, medical practitioners should screen for TBI on an ongoing basis, Adams says. The findings also suggest that veterans with a history of moderate or severe TBI would benefit from talking with a provider about safety planning in relation to firearm access, Adams says. “Healthcare providers can speak to patients who they think may be at risk for suicide to identify objects, such as firearms, that might be dangerous in their environment, and come up with plans or safeguards to try to reduce access to these objects like gun locks.”