Brain Injury Awareness Month
Did you know that March is Brain Injury Awareness Month? The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) has been promoting public awareness of this issue for over 30 years. The goals of their yearly campaign are to empower brain injury survivors and their caregivers, provide outreach within the brain injury community to destigmatize traumatic brain injuries, and promote the support types available to people living with this condition. Imagine trying to function without your body’s central processing unit. How would you get through your day without access to your memories, speech, emotions, or physical motor and basic body functions?
You might be surprised to learn how common brain injuries are. More than 168,000 Virginians are disabled as a result of traumatic brain injuries and the condition accounts for about 1/3 of all Virginia residents’ injury-related deaths. Because of their prevalence, it’s important to know the causes and signs of brain injury, as well as how to best support those dealing with the disability.
Most Common Causes of Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injury can be caused by a blow to the body or head. Factors such as the force of impact and the nature of the injury will determine the degree of damage. Sports injuries, violence, collisions involving vehicles, falls, and combat injuries like explosive blasts can all lead to TBI.
Vehicle-related crashes, whether they involve bicycles, motorcycles, or automobiles are especially damaging for drivers and pedestrians. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of traumatic brain injury-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths among all age groups – as high as 14%. They are also the third leading cause of brain-injury deaths (19%).
Brain Injury Symptoms
Traumatic brain injury symptoms can appear within the first few hours to days after a head injury. By knowing what to look for, you could save a life. Be on the lookout for the following in adults or children. Please note that this is not a complete list of symptoms:
• Adults – loss of consciousness, nausea or vomiting, headache, drowsiness or confusion, changing sleep pattern, mood swings or depression, slurred speech, loss of coordination.
• Children – Loss of interest in play, seizures, change in eating or sleeping habits, attention span loss, persistent crying.
What to Avoid Saying to Someone with a Brain Injury
When dealing with a loved one who’s affected by traumatic brain injury, it’s natural to want to help by offering advice or sharing your thoughts, even if you may be unfamiliar with brain injury. It’s also easy to get burned out when caring for someone with a brain injury and find yourself saying something out of frustration. The following are a few things you might not say to someone with a brain injury:
- “Let me do that for you.” After a brain injury, people often lose their sense of control or independence. You may find it easier and faster to do something for them, but this can diminish their confidence, self-esteem, and quality of living. Allowing them to try things for themselves can help their brain heal faster and alleviate depression.
- “You’re lucky to be alive.” While you might think you’re promoting positive thinking, people with brain injuries are six times more likely to become suicidal. They may not feel “lucky” to be alive. Instead, tell them how heroic, persistent or strong they are for making it through their ordeal. Let them know that you think they’re awesome.
- “You don’t try hard enough,” or “You’re lazy.” Apathy is not laziness. Instead, this lack of emotion, motivation, or interest is a common disorder caused by brain injury. Because it can get in the way of rehabilitation, treatment is important. Certain prescription drugs have shown to be effective in treating apathy.
- “How many times do I have to tell you?” Repeating yourself may prove difficult at times, however, recall that brain injury often impacts memory. Find ways to work around it. You could write a reminder on a memo board, create a routine, or break the task down into easier steps. Also, remember that your loved one can read frustration in your face. You don’t have to say it for it to be hurtful.
How You Can Get Involved
Brain injury victims need your support. Be a part of the solution by getting involved and spreading awareness. Easy ways to do this are:
- Sharing your experience – You can share your story on the Brain Injury Association of America website through personal testimony and inspire others who may be going through similar situations.
- Connecting on social media – Find like-minded individuals on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites who are on the same journey as you. The BIAA has created a profile frame you can use to spread awareness of the cause.
- Showing support – Download and share free ads, flyers, and posters from the BIAA with your local community. The Brain Injury Association of America created a digital stamp for this year’s campaign hashtag, #ChangeYourMind. Try downloading the stamp and using it on social media posts, websites, email, stickers, t-shirts, and more to let other people know you’re an advocate for the cause.
The Brain Injury Law Center fully supports the Brain Injury Awareness campaign and we fight for justice for survivors and their families. To find out what we can do for you, call us at (757) 244-7000.