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The connection between traumatic brain injuries and military suicides is the main focus of the mental health summit

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SANT ‘ANTONIO Addressing rising military suicide rates is a daunting task, but a nationwide network of providers agrees that traumatic brain injury is a contributing factor.

One of the people pushing for awareness on the issue is Mark Riddick, who served 21 years in the US Army as a combat medic and healthcare administrator.

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I went to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, South Korea, everywhere.

In his many years of training and service, he has had several bumps or blows to the head.

I pushed back or did aerial operations and fell to the ground and recovered and shivering a little and feeling a little lightheaded, feeling a little dizzy, getting up and down and out for the next couple hours or a day or so and most of us will shake it off,” Riddick said.

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However, studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, Veterans Affairs and others show that blows to the head, severe or minor, can cause traumatic brain injuries that lead to mental and behavioral problems.

I myself have experienced things from a short temper to impulse control, feelings of hopelessness or hopelessness. I went through a series of emotions that for me came out of nowhere and I wonder, what just happened? Why did I react like this? So there’s a lot of research behind it, but I certainly think that’s the case, Riddick said.

Riddick is now the deputy chief of behavioral health at Endeavors, Texas’ largest provider of veterans services, spanning 111 counties.

He said the medical and behavioral health fields are finally paying more attention to traumatic brain injury.

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Depending on that brain injury, its severity, how the brain was affected, a traumatic brain injury can cause a wide variety of physical, cognitive, and even emotional symptoms. Some of the common ones are headaches, dizziness, nausea, memory loss, the list goes on and on. But in terms of mental and emotional well-being, research is showing that TBIs may increase a person’s risk of developing things like anxiety or depression, Riddick said.

The link between traumatic brain injury and suicide was a key topic at this month’s annual Endeavors Mental Health Summit.

They talked in great detail about diagnosing traumatic brain injury and taking brain scans even though you may not think it’s indicated, and some of the contraindications of not having those brain scans when diagnosing behavioral health and medical conditions, he said Riddick.

Riddick stands and is urging providers to order brain scans for patients with mental health issues.

Years later, things add up. The brain keeps score. Just because you haven’t passed out, you haven’t thrown up, you haven’t felt nauseous, you shrug it off and think it’s no big deal, but every single blow to the head could lead to or could be a traumatic brain injury, she said. .

The collective goal is to prevent those headshots in the first place.

When doing certain operations you should wear a helmet, not take unnecessary blows to the head because of the training you’re doing, Riddick said.

Anyone with mental health issues can contact Endeavors, which operates the large veterans’ health club in San Antonio.

We use a very holistic and individualized approach to treat veterans who may be experiencing behavioral or mental health conditions as a result of TBI, he explained.

They offer traditional cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, but there’s also a big emphasis on improving overall quality of life.

There is a physical form that is really known to produce endorphins which help some of the problems like depression and anxiety. There are non-traditional means like acupuncture, massage therapy, horse therapy, there’s music therapy, art therapy, there’s a ton of ways we can use to provide veterinarians with a productive means of dealing with their stressors Riddick said.

Riddick himself said he was initially wary of the many types of holistic treatments offered at the center, beyond traditional behavioral therapy.

I learned about equine therapy which is with horses. I learned about yoga and mindfulness and meditation and as new age as it sounds, I will tell you it is extremely helpful, she said.

He also said that the mental health issues that result from TBI could also contribute to substance use disorders, which Endeavors also helps by linking to other resources.

For anyone suffering out there, you are definitely not alone. There are a lot of people who are dealing with the same issues that you are dealing with, but there are also a lot of people who are getting help with it, Riddick said.

Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues can always call 9-8-8. To contact Endeavors, call 210-431-6466 or visit their website.

Copyright 2023 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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