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Multiple concussions tied to more suicidal thoughts

Multiple concussions tied to more suicidal thoughts

People who’ve sustained multiple brain injuries throughout their life were more likely to report suicidal thoughts than people with one or no concussions, according to a new study of deployed U.S. military personnel.

“Personnel who had sustained more than one concussion in their lives were significantly more likely to be suicidal in their past – as well as in the past year,” said Craig Bryan, the study’s lead author from the University of Utah National Center for Veterans’ Studies in Salt Lake City.

Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among military members, and claimed about 16 lives per 100,000 members in 2008. That’s about a 50 percent increase since 2001, according to a 2011 report from the RAND Corporation.

Bryan and his colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry that the increase in suicide is partially driven by a rise in psychiatric illnesses among military personnel, who may have been exposed to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Traumatic brain injury, one of the signature wounds of the two wars, has also been linked to an increased risk of suicide. But the researchers write that few studies have looked at the effects of multiple brain injuries on suicide risk.

For the new study, the researchers used information on 157 military personnel and 4 civilian contractors who were sent to a combat support hospital in Iraq during 2009 for suspected brain injuries.

On questionnaires, 18 said they had never been diagnosed with a concussion before, 58 said they’d been diagnosed with a brain injury once and 85 reported multiple diagnoses. Most were mild injuries, Bryan said.

Also, 18 patients reported previous suicidal thoughts, two said they had planned a suicide and two said they attempted it.

Overall, the researchers didn’t find evidence of suicidal thoughts among any of the patients who hadn’t reported previous concussions.

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