According to the CDC, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens between the ages of 15 and 19 — and new research suggests that suffering a concussion could put an already vulnerable population further at risk.
New research, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, appears to link concussions with risk factors for suicide completion. The Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network, which examined the study, reports that among 13,000 U.S. high school students, those who self-reported having had a concussion — about 15 percent of those surveyed — were more likely to report symptoms linked to suicide.
Respondents who reported having a concussion within the past year were more likely to say they felt feelings of depression, or to have had suicidal ideation. They were also more likely to have planned or previous suicide attempts.
The increases in suicide risk factors were slight, but significant. Compared to the general population, those who had suffered a concussion were about 5 percent more likely to report feeling sad or hopeless. Thirty-six percent of concussion-sufferers reported such feelings, compared to 31.1 percent of all respondents. Meanwhile, 21 percent of those with a concussion history reported having suicidal thoughts, compared to 17 percent of the total survey population.
The increase in self-reported suicide risk factors among concussion-sufferers appeared regardless of respondents’ gender. Male students who reported having had a concussion in the past year were twice as likely as the survey population to report having attempted suicide, and three times as likely to report having received medical treatment for a suicide attempt. Female students with a concussion history were more likely to report all suicide risk factors the study measured.
“If a child is diagnosed with a concussion, everyone in their support network should look for changes in mood or behavior that may be warning signs of reduced mental well-being,” said Dale Mantey, the study’s lead author.
Senior author Steven H. Kelder added, “Concussions are a traumatic brain injury, and they are even worse for young people with developing brains."