Damage to the brain due to one or more concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI)—even mild head injuries that aren’t diagnosed and don’t cause a blackout—is a common finding in suicidal people. A 2018 study in JAMA1 found that the risk of suicide triples in the first six months following a TBI, and it remains elevated long after that. Compared to those who have not had a head injury, people who have experienced a TBI are at a 75% increased risk for suicide seven years after experiencing an injury.

Car accidents, falls, sports injuries, and other incidents can damage the brain in ways that increase the risk of depression, anxiety, anger, impulsivity, poor decision-making, and substance abuse. All of these issues have been associated with a greater incidence of suicidality.

At Amen Clinics, SPECT scans show that an alarming 40% of patients have had a brain injury; however the vast majority of them don’t recall getting injured or don’t think their injury was significant enough to mention. Most people never make the connection between a past head injury and mental health conditions or suicidal ideation.

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