Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Does Not Increase Suicide Risk in Veterans with PTSD

The New York Times recently claimed that PTSD “causes” chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in U.S. military veterans. A new paper questions whether mTBI actually exacerbates the risk of suicide in this population. This is important, because the more direct cause of CTE is likely to be repeated concussions. If these are not increasing suicide risk, then it doesn’t seem that we should be expecting an epidemic of CTE in veterans, after all.


Does a history of mild traumatic brain injury increase suicide risk in veterans with PTSD?

Barnes SM, Walter KH, Chard KM.
Rehabil Psychol. 2012 Feb;57(1):18-26.



Research shows that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) independently increase suicide risk; however, scant research has investigated whether mTBI increases suicide risk above and beyond the risk associated with PTSD alone.


The current research compared suicide risk factors among a matched sample of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) military personnel and veterans with PTSD alone or PTSD and a history of an mTBI.


Differences in the assessed risk factors were small and suggest that if PTSD and mTBI are associated with elevations in suicide risk relative to PTSD alone, the added risk is likely mediated or confounded by PTSD symptom severity.


This finding highlights the importance of screening and treating military personnel and veterans for PTSD. Future explication of the impact of TBI-related impairments on suicide risk will be critical as we strive to ensure safety and optimize care for our military personnel and veterans.

via Dr. Romeo Vitelli at Providentia