In a Canadian study, teenagers who suffered a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion had significantly greater odds of attempting suicide, being bullied and engaging in a variety of high-risk behaviors.
These teens also are more likely to become bullies themselves, to have sought counseling through a crisis help-line or to have been prescribed medication for anxiety, depression or both, Gabriela Ilie, PhD, the studys lead author and a post-doctoral fellow at St. Michaels Hospital in Toronto, said in a news release.
They have higher odds of damaging property, breaking and entering, taking a car without permission, selling marijuana or hashish, running away from home, setting a fire, getting into a fight at school or carrying or being threatened by a weapon, Ilie said.
The study, published April 15 on the website of the journal PLOS One, provides the first population-based evidence demonstrating the extent of the association between TBI and poor mental health outcomes among adolescents, Ilie said.
Specifically, adolescents who had suffered a TBI sometime in their life had twice the odds of being bullied at school or via the Internet and almost three times the odds of attempting suicide or being threatened at school with a weapon compared with those without a TBI.
These results show that preventable brain injuries and mental health and behavioral problems among teens continue to remain a blind spot in our culture, Ilie said in the news release. These kids are falling through the cracks.
The data used in the study was from the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The survey, one of the longest ongoing school surveys in the world, contains responses from almost 9,000 students from Grades 7-12 in publicly funded schools across Ontario.
Ilie said the teenage years are already a turbulent time for some as they try to figure out who they are and what they want to be. Since a TBI can exacerbate mental health and behavioral issues, she said, clinicians, schools, parents and coaches need to be vigilant in monitoring adolescents with TBI.