Risk of Suicide After Head Injury is High

"To jump or not to jump?" (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
"To jump or not to jump?" (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Some years ago a car hit my cousin while he was crossing a street on pedestrian crossing. A driver ignored a clear sign to stop for pedestrians. Probably the driver was distracted by something he shouldn’t have been doing. My cousin had concussion and was in a hospital unconscious for several days. He recovered and went home. But he was never the same. Some years later he committed suicide.

In Medicine Hat, I think 13th Avenue is quite unsafe. It is one of the busiest streets with several businesses and seniors residencies all cramped together. Businesses like gas station, Co-op, car wash, banks, doctor’s office, dental office, golf course, Alberta Motor Association – just to name a few – are all busy with traffic going in and out of their parking lots. I think 13th Avenue is very unsafe.

If a vehicle hits you then the chances of sustaining head injury and broken bones is very high if you are lucky enough to survive. Studies have shown head injuries have been associated with subsequent suicide among military personnel.

A study from Ontario (CMAJ April 19, 2016) looked at the long-term risk of suicide after a weekend or weekday concussion. They identified 235,110 patients with a concussion. Their mean age was 41 years, 52 per cent were men, and most (86 per cent) lived in an urban location. A total of 667 subsequent suicides occurred over a median follow-up of 9.3 years, equivalent to 31 deaths per 100,000 patients annually or three times the population norm.

Weekend concussions were associated with a one-third further increased risk of suicide compared with weekday concussions. The paper concluded that adults with a diagnosis of concussion had an increased long-term risk of suicide, particularly after concussions on weekends.

The authors of the article suggest greater attention to the long-term care of patients after a concussion in the community might save lives because deaths from suicide can be prevented. More important and better option would be to prevent injuries to the head completely.

Last year, a movie, Concussion, a biographical sports drama thriller was released in the U.S. It is a true story based on the exposé “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, published in 2009 by GQ magazine. It is a true story.

Set in 2002, the film stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist of Nigerian origin with the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Coroner’s Office. Omalu fights against efforts by the National Football League to suppress his research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). A kind of brain degeneration suffered by professional football players from repeated injuries to the head.

Head injuries can be prevented. For example, heavy alcohol consumption contributes to one-third of motor vehicle collisions. Medical warnings by physicians to patients who are potentially unfit to drive are effective for preventing serious collisions. Let us make our roads safe, vehicles safe, sports safe. Let us prevent head injury, disability and death.

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!

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