Numbers of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are increasing, and with suicidality post-injury presenting at 3–4 times higher than in the general population, understanding this is crucial in reducing a devastating outcome. Given the lack of literature, this study investigated the experiences of living with suicidality after TBI.
Interview data from nineteen participants with TBI from a Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit (BIRU) in New South Wales (NSW), Australia were collected and thematically analyzed.
The participants (predominantly male) sustained extremely severe injuries (median PTA 60 [IQR 81.0] days) and were in the chronic phase post-injury (median 8.0 [IQR 9.0] years). Six main themes were identified; Loss of sense of self, TBI as a hidden disability, Chronic but transient suicidality, Reliance, Protective factors, and Hope. Tentative relationships between themes and subthemes were identified.
Chronic suicidality after TBI was demonstrated consistently regardless of receiving long-term support. However, their engagement with protective factors such as social support, spirituality and positive personal qualities was identified. Implementing these as coping strategies during long-term rehabilitation may reduce the levels of suicidal distress. Implications, methodological considerations and future research were discussed, with the aim of improving experiences of individuals with TBI to reduce suicidality.