Originally published May 31 2013
Increased military suicides linked to multiple concussions - but is that the whole story?
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) New data suggests that a dramatic increase in military suicides is linked to multiple concussions suffered by troops involved in successive roadside bombings and other combat actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but previous data at least hints that other causes - pharmaceutical drug use including anti-depressants - could be playing a much larger role than is realized.
A recently published study in Journal of the American Medical Association says that research indicates that "suicide risk is higher among military personnel with more lifetime TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) even after controlling for clinical symptom severity," and that as such, military suicide rates are higher than the national average.
More bombs, more exposure - more TBIs and more suicidesPer the Los Angele Times:
The U.S. military has faced two epidemics over the last decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
One is suicide. The annual rate of military personnel taking their own lives has doubled to about 20 per 100,000. That translated to a record 324 suicides in the Army last year.
The other is concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury, or TBI. The proliferation of roadside bombs has subjected thousands of troops to brain-rattling explosions.
The paper went onto note that a number of studies, including this latest one, have linked TBI to higher suicide rates.
The lead author of the latest study, Craig Bryan, was an Air Force psychologist in Iraq in 2009. While deployed, he studied and treated TBI. His latest study is premised on 157 military personnel and four civilian contractors, all of whom were referred to his clinic for possible concussions.
Most of the subjects were male and were members of the U.S. Army. "They were assessed for TBI and questioned about their history of head trauma, depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation," the paper reported. "A statistical analysis was used to establish the relationship between the number of concussions and suicide risk."
Risk is not well understoodEighteen subjects had never suffered a prior concussion, the study found, and none had expressed suicidal ideations in the previous year. Among the 58 subjects who had at least one concussion, 3 percent of them said they had considered it. That rate rose to 12 percent among the group of subjects who had suffered two or more concussions.
"All of a sudden the likelihood of being suicidal increased dramatically once you had the second head injury," said Bryan, who is now chief of research at the University of Utah's National Center for Veterans Studies.
Some of the subjects in his study had suffered five or more concussions over the course of their lifetimes. But Bryan said their risk of suicide wasn't any higher than those with two.
While the data seem compelling and indicative of a relationship between concussion and suicide, how one might increase the risk of the other is not well understood, the Times reported.
Some researchers believe that even mild TBI can impair a person's problem-solving capacity, as well as the ability to function well in social surroundings, and that those deficits may increase suicidal ideations when such persons are placed in certain stress-filled situations.
High operational tempo - and more anti-depressantsAnalysts say the military's high suicide rates are reflective of an over-burdened military that is reeling from multiple deployments over the past 10 years, mostly to Iraq and Afghanistan. It should be noted that these wartime deployments come in addition to peacetime obligations such as year-long, recurring commitments to places like Qatar, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, Kosovo and parts of Africa - assignments that are often handled by National Guard units from around the country because they are in excess of the staffing and manning capabilities of active duty components.
Such a high deployment rate, then, leads to other conclusions: Too much combat exposure and an increase in post-traumatic stress, which has then led to "misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems," reported The Associated Press a year ago.
And here's another shocking fact: As of May 2012, the Army's surgeon general reported that more than 110,000 U.S. Army personnel were taking antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs that were prescribed to them by doctors.
TBI and multiple combat tours have taken their toll on America's military ranks via suicide, but it's time to examine the potential link between pharmaceuticals and suicide as well.
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