Attempted Suicide can Leave Survivors with Brain Injury
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and as we contemplate the causes and repercussions of suicide and how we can better prevent it, the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) would like to shed light on a consequence of attempted suicide not widely known or talked about in family or professional circles.
Surviving a suicide attempt is often a life-changing event. Some people may feel they have been given a second chance at life, while others may feel upset or disappointed. The event may begin a journey of healing, but sometimes a person who survives a suicide attempt may find themself in an even worse situation than before.
The suicide attempt may cause a ripple effect throughout their life, including their health. Depending on how the attempt was carried out, the person may suffer lasting health problems and/or physical damage — including brain injury.
If a person survives an attempt to end their life through an intentional fall, car crash, or being struck by an object, they are likely to have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head would probably result in a severe TBI. Electric shock can cause a whole host of neurologic and central nervous system complications.
Additionally, attempts that include cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain, such as through hanging, suffocation, or drowning, may cause a person to acquire a hypoxic or anoxic brain injury. Hypoxic means there is not enough oxygen reaching the brain, while anoxic means there is none at all.
There are many other methods that may also cause brain injury. Overdosing on opioid drugs causes breathing to slow or stop, cutting off oxygen supply. Carbon monoxide poisoning prevents the blood from carrying oxygen to the brain. Significant blood loss from a self-harm wound can drop blood volume and prevent enough oxygenated blood from reaching the brain.
Brain injury is often overlooked by medical professionals, and some people who have acquired one may never realize it even happened. The effects, however, may be long- lasting and detrimental. Emotional regulation, executive functioning, and cognitive abilities may be negatively affected, causing life to seem even more unmanageable than before. Brain injury also increases a person’s risk of substance use disorder, subsequent brain injuries, and future suicide attempts.
Our purpose in sharing this information is not to use fear as a tool for change; however, we believe every person deserves to be fully informed about the choices they make. The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona encourages those living with suicidal thoughts and behaviors to educate themselves, make fully informed decisions, and consider and seek alternative solutions.
If you are considering suicide, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). In an emergency, call 911 or a local mobile crisis unit. If you are struggling with substance misuse or mental illness, seeking treatment for these issues will often help to improve the way you are feeling. If you’re not sure where to start, call the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona to get a referral. Our services are free to survivors of brain injury, their families, and those at risk for brain injury — including people living with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
If you have survived a suicide attempt and believe you may have acquired a brain injury, call the BIAAZ to find out what resources and support are available to you. You do not need a formal diagnosis to use our free services.
If you are a professional and would like to help us serve those who desperately need our assistance in the most culturally diverse, efficient, and compassionate way possible, please reach out and join our committees and volunteer leadership teams today.
As we close out this month, the BIAAZ staff would like to reaffirm that true suicide prevention is much more than just intervening when a friend or loved one is feeling suicidal — it’s amplifying and supporting the work all our allied non-profit professionals do every day. To them, we say thank you and keep up the amazing, impactful work you do.
- Financial stability is suicide prevention.
- Secure housing is suicide prevention.
- The ability to leave an unhealthy or dangerous situation is suicide prevention.
- Affordable healthcare is suicide prevention.
- Access to mental healthcare is suicide prevention.
ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA
The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness, and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members, and professionals.
What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.
The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:
- Works with the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
- Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
- Hosts the Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
- Deploys a Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response Team with peer support, training and family wraparound services
- Facilitates the Brain Health Advisory Council
- Manages a Statewide Neuro Info-Line 888-500-9165