People who experience serious head injuries often require days — if not weeks — of medical care to get back on their feet. For most of them, the mental aftershocks will last long after they’ve checked out of the hospital.
More than half of all people who suffer a traumatic brain injury will become depressed in the year after the injury, a rate eight times higher than in the general population, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And only about 45 percent of those who do become depressed are likely to receive adequate treatment.
“We’re not talking about normal day-to-day changes in mood, but symptoms that last for more than two weeks,” says the lead author of the study, Charles Bombardier, Ph.D., professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Symptoms to watch for include low mood, low energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, acting restless or slowing down, and thoughts of death, says Bombadier. Previous research has shown a higher rate of suicide following traumatic brain injury, he adds. “Any signs that the person may be thinking of killing himself should be taken very seriously.”