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Traumatic Brain Injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress Linked to Suicide in Veterans

How you can help prevent suicide in veterans

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans die by suicide at a rate more than 50% higher than non-veteran adults. After their service, veterans may experience isolation, loneliness, and difficulty returning to civilian life. There are invisible injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Veterans often struggle to seek help. That's where the encouragement, support, and advocacy of loved ones can make all the difference. 

Memorize 988. 
If you are currently in an emotional crisis or concerned about someone who is and need immediate assistance, call 988 for 24/7 help. Veterans can press “1” after dialing 988 to connect to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline. 988 is designated as the nationwide three-digit number for mental health crisis and suicide prevention services.

Know the symptoms of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. 
Research shows that sustaining a traumatic brain injury can increase the likelihood that a veteran will be diagnosed with certain mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress. And, U.S. Army soldiers with a history of TBI who died by suicide did so 21% sooner than those without brain injuries after returning from deployment. 

Getting an accurate diagnosis of brain injury, post-traumatic stress – or both – is key in helping your loved one or yourself get help.  Here's a tool to help you understand unique and overlapping symptoms in traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.

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Be observant about behavior changes. For many veterans, the physical symptoms of TBI are not obvious. Be on the lookout for loss of interest in meaning­ful activities, personality changes, social isolation, and substance abuse, especially in increasing amounts.

Reach out and spend time together. Let a veteran know he or she is not alone. Meet for coffee or go for a walk. Listen and encourage them to seek help.

Tell veterans and their families about helpful programs, including the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center. Encourage caregivers, spouses, and friends to seek help on behalf of a veteran. Since 2007, SHARE has provided rehabilitation for military veterans, service members, and first responders who are ready to accept help and healing for their daily struggle with traumatic brain injuries and mental health concerns. SHARE is the only comprehensive rehabilitation program with:

  • flexible programming options
  • collaborative care
  • transition support
  • community reintegration

This is all available at no cost to military veterans, service members, and first responders, so they can embark on a truly individualized and impactful path to renewed relationships, purpose, and life. For non-emergencies, call 404-603-4314 between 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. to speak with a representative from our admissions team. If you call after hours, please leave us a message, and we'll return your call during our regular operating hours. You can also email us at

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.