Brain injuries cause depression, other mental health issues

Brain injuries are incredibly diverse: some cause life-changing physical responses such as paralysis or speech impairment; others result in emotional symptoms like depression and anxiety. Indeed, a growing body of research establishes a strong link between brain injury and increased risk of suicide, a link that every brain injury lawyer should consider as they pursue compensation for their clients.

Denmark-based researchers Trine Madsen and Michael Benros led the most comprehensive study linking brain injuries with suicide. Their team analyzed the medical records of more than 7.4-million individuals representing more than 164-million person-years of observation. Of the 567,823 individuals diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, 3,536 committed suicide, a rate of 40.6 suicides per 100,000 person-years. The suicide rate among individuals without brain injuries was 19.9 per 100,000.

The researchers also controlled for conditions that sometimes increase suicidality (education level, socioeconomic status, pre-existing psychiatric factors, etc.) and found the gap between TBI victims and other individuals unchanged. Even among subjects that suffered from the mildest form of TBI – concussions – the rate of suicide was 38.6 per 100,000 person-years, or almost double the regular rate.

Writing on the study for Psychology Today, Dr. Eugene Rubin concluded that it is “likely that the increased rate of suicide was related to head trauma.”

A separate study led by the University of Toronto’s Dr. Michael Fralick produced similar findings, concluding that the risk of suicide is twice as high for people with at least one concussion than for those without a brain injury of any kind, according to a U of T news release.

More broadly, a study led by Dr. Christopher Evans, director of trauma at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal determined that individuals who experience traumatic accidents have a greater chance of developing mental illnesses or committing suicide, the Globe and Mail reports.

The study tracked how many trauma patients were readmitted to hospitals for mental issues within five years of their traumatic accident. It discovered that alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and major depressive disorders were disturbingly common.

“Anyone involved in the acute management of these patients needs to be thinking about mental health as importantly as we think about the physical injuries that someone has suffered,” Evans told the Globe.

Every brain injury lawyer in Ontario should heed Evans’s advice. Mental health issues must be considered when appropriate compensation for brain injury victims is decided. Ontario courts are starting to improve protections for brain injury victims.

If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced brain injury lawyer. Our team can provide guidance and advice as you work towards recovery.


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