According to the National Center for Veterans’ Studies, every day, 18 military veterans attempt to commit suicide.
This overwhelmingly large number can be attributed to many problems that veterans face after retiring from the military; however, one of the chief causes has been from the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Veterans should know they are not alone in this struggle, as highlighted by the recent death of former Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau.
Veterans are often overlooked when people think of suffering from emotional distress, due to the “tough guy” image we tend to portray. People don’t always realize that America’s heroes are stationed overseas, struggling to overcome family separations and unpaid bills, not to mention the constant threat of IEDs and insurgent attacks.
These troubles have pushed scientist and doctors to increase their efforts of finding links between TBI and PTSD, since there is not an exact science for correctly diagnosing the problem.
According to a study performed by the United States Army, the number of soldiers taking anti-depressants and sedatives has increased over 800 percent since 2005. Studies like this have led to an increased amount of attention to unlocking the complexity of a damaged brain.
Help Comes from a Different Battlefield
For years, commentators and journalists have commonly called the football field a battlefield, referring to the coaches as generals and players as soldiers. While that only goes as far as a metaphor, it may share a commonality – TBI and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
These injuries are incurred by both veterans and NFL players alike, due to the fact that both are likely to sustain a brain injury at some point during their careers, whether that is suffering a massive collision or surviving the blast from a IED.
Last year former Chicago Bears defensive back, Dave Duerson, took his life by shooting himself in the chest. Duerson received multiple concussions during his time as a Safety for the Bears and constantly complained to family of his deteriorating mental state in his last few months. Duerson recognized the symptoms of his disorder, including a depressed state, blurry vision, headaches and memory loss, and in his final note, he requested his brain be used for research.
The overlap in the relationship between TBI and PTSD or similar medical conditions will continue to show as scientists and doctors study neuropsychiatric disorders and exposure to concussive impacts suffered by people across different arenas. It is important to remember that studies are being done and awareness has surely been raised that will help lead to better diagnostic procedures as well as treatment.