Previous research has shown that, in recent years, there has been an increased rate of suicide in soldiers returning from war. In addition, as many as 15-23% of returning soldiers have incurred traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A new study published in Rehabilitation Psychology aimed to identify risk and protective factors for suicide ideation or suicidal behavior among veterans who have experienced TBI.
Thirteen suicidal veterans in a TBI clinic completed 30 to 60 minute interviews that included structured questionnaires regarding suicidality, methods of coping/seeking support, and military service. Researchers identified a post-injury loss of sense of self, cognitive deficits secondary to TBI, and psychiatric and emotional difficulties as precipitating factors for suicide ideation or suicidal behavior. Social support, a sense of purpose and hopefulness, religion or spirituality, and mental health treatment were identified as protective factors.
This study helps to identify those precipitating factors that practitioners should target when working with a similar population. The authors note that concepts associated with perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belonging can be targeted using cognitive and behavioral strategies along with techniques that encourage the client to re-conceptualize his or her worth and meaning to others.
Brenner, L. A., Homaifar, B. Y., Adler, L. E., Wolfman, J. H., & Kemp, J. (2009). Suicidality and veterans with a history of traumatic brain injury: Precipitating events, protective factors, and prevention strategies. Rehabilitation Psychology, 54, 390-397.