September is suicide awareness month and recent studies suggest a possible link between traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in youth and increased suicide risks. According to a study reported by Psych Central, teenagers who experience a traumatic brain injury have “significantly greater odds” of developing high-risk behaviors, including suicidal tendencies.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes a TBI as a “disruption to normal brain function” caused by a sudden blow or jolting of the head. These conditions range from mild to severe depending on the level of injury. Mild TBIs are generally known as concussions, while severe injuries may result in long term memory loss and extended unconsciousness. Youth and teens are at an increased risk for TBIs, due to falls and participation in youth recreation. The CDC reports that in 2009, almost 250,000 children under the age of 19 were treated for sports related injuries, including TBI diagnoses.
The teen TBI study was conducted in Canada, where more than 9,000 students in grades seven through 12 were surveyed about their health and well-being, including traumatic brain injuries. It is reportedly estimated that nearly 20% of teens in the area experienced a TBI as some point in their youth. According to the article, study researchers concluded that teens with a history of TBI were twice as likely to experience bullying from classmates and three times as likely to attempt suicide. Specific observed negative behaviors included:
-Running away from home
-Breaking and entering
-Driving the car without permission
-Causing damage to property
-Bullying others or being bullied
Study subjects were also likely to take prescribed medication for anxiety or depression, and also seek counseling from a mental health professional. Neuropsychologist Dr. Gabriela Ilie, was the lead author of the study. He is quoted in the article as stating, “These results show that preventable brain injuries and mental health and behavioral problems among teens continue to remain a blind spot in our culture.” He continued, “These kids are falling through the cracks.”
The study reportedly suggests a specific correlation between the long term effects of traumatic brain injuries and the development of the adolescent brain. In response, some experts suggest the use of specific tactics for the education of these students. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, TBI impairments can interfere with the educational process. The organization advises that these students can benefit from the implementation of certain strategies:
*Collaboration between students, family and educators creates a support system around the child, so there are several options for communication and mentoring
*Family support from school therapists, who can identify problems within the family structure and provide proper resources for assistance
*Identifying resource tools that assist the child in getting through each day and comprehending the learning material.
Brain injuries are serious matters with lasting physical, mental and financial effects for the injured party and the family. If you or a family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact legal professionals for help.
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