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Teens Who Suffer Traumatic Brain Injuries More Likely to Attempt Suicide: Report

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A new report finds that teenagers who sustain a serious head injury — like a concussion — are more likely to develop serious mental health issues. This means they’re also more likely to attempt suicide.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, examined adolescents who had suffered a traumatic brain injury (or TBI). The finding: teens who suffered TBIs were more likely to develop mental health issues, like depression. This, in turn, had a significant impact on their behaviour. For example, many attempted suicide, while others bullied other teens. Interestingly, the study showed that teens who suffered a TBI were also more likely to be bullied.

The study also found that teens who suffered a TBI were more likely to use alcohol or marijuana, be prescribed medicaton to treat anxiety and depression, and engage in various anti-social behaviours. These behaviours ranged from stealing a parent’s car to running away from home and being found carrying a dangerous weapon to school.

St. Michael’s Hospital researcher Dr. Gabriela Ilie, a neuropsychologist, says it’s important everyone pay careful attention to a teen’s behaviour after they sustain a serious head injury.

“I think what we’re seeing here is a cry for help,” Ilie said. “What we’re seeing here is a wake-up call. [A] cry for help on their behalf and a wake-up call for us — for parents, for educators, for medical professionals.”

Ilie went on to say that it’s critical for physicians, parents, and educators to open up communication lines with teens after a traumatic brain injury has taken place.

“You want to be vigilant as a parent, you want to be vigilant as a medical professional to screen for potential mental health and behaviour harms in adolescent patients who have had a TBI,” Ilie said.

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