How to Address Thoughts of Suicide
BrainLine talks with Dr. Maria Mouratidis about how to address thoughts of suicide in someone dealing with a TBI, PTSD, or depression.
It is common that patients who are recovering from a brain injury or a severe physical injury might have thoughts of suicide. It's important that, although that may not happen for everyone, that it's important that we pay attention to someone who might be feeling so hopeless and so helpless that they might think that their life isn't worth living anymore. And especially if someone has a brain injury, depending on where their brain injury might be, that might affect their ability to be in control of their behavior. It might affect their decision-making, and especially if they're also using drugs or alcohol, that can certainly even more so impair their ability to make some good decisions. Sometimes people can get into a very dark little corner of their mind, where they just don't see any way out. And although that moment may be brief, tragic consequences can happen, so it is okay to ask people if you're concerned if they are having thoughts of suicide. It doesn't put thoughts into their head. They probably have already thought about it. There's a big difference between having those thoughts and taking action on those thoughts. But if someone is having thoughts of hurting themselves or someone else, they should definitely talk to a provider, a healthcare provider, their pastor, whatever supports that they might have and to get assessed and treated for that if that happens. It's also very common in people who are suffering from depression, which often happens as a consequence of exposure to trauma or as a consequence of brain injury. So although it's not uncommon to have those thoughts, it's very important that providers assess for that and that family members, if there's any concern about if they're making comments about not being around, comments about that they'd be better off dead. Oftentimes, patients who have had an injury or a disability feel like they are burdening those around them. Even if the caregivers aren't feeling that way at all, or aren't communicating that at all, it's a worry that they might have, so it's important that we're aware and that we have awareness about that and can talk about it and seek help because there is help for it.
Posted on BrainLine March 4, 2009.
Dr. Mouratidis is a licensed neuropsychologist and currently the command consultant and subject matter expert for Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health at the National Naval Medical Center.