Time to Talk About Mental Health: Resources for traumatic brain injuries

Published 1:54 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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By Julie Whittaker

Davie Mental Health Advocates

Sometimes people experience a sudden loss of their mental health because of an accident or catastrophic onset of a medical condition. Activities we engage in are essential to our daily livelihood or we choose them because we seek adventure and fun.

However, accidents happen,  and when the head is injured a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be a long-term life changing event. Suddenly, a person may no longer be able to care for themselves, engage in work, or make good decisions.

Good basic information can be found at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons website; aans.org. Their definition: “Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.

Observing one of the following clinical signs constitutes alteration in the normal brain function:

• loss of or decreased consciousness;

• loss of memory for events before or after the event (amnesia);

• focal neurological deficits such as muscle weakness, loss of vision, change in speech; and

• alteration in mental state such as disorientation, slow thinking or difficulty concentrating.

Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of damage to the brain. Mild cases may result in a brief change in mental state or consciousness. Severe cases may result in extended periods of unconsciousness, coma, or even death.”

Some people may be able to rely on their private health insurance to receive the care and supports they need. And some may find themselves in need of public support from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health System which has a category for those with Traumatic Brain Injuries to help them and/or their families cope better with these circumstances. Either way, this is another condition that many think will never happen to them or a loved one, so when it does, they have no idea how to get the help they need after the initial hospitalization.

The Brain Injury Association of America has an affiliate in Raleigh, NC where families can find resources using their website at http://www.bianc.net.

Here are resources for those with brain injuries, for their caregivers, professionals, or service members. They maintain a Resource Call Center line at 1-800-377-1464 and searchable database online. For Support groups visit\ https://www.bianc.net/support-groups/. The offerings include a list of dtatewide virtual support groups and lists of groups by areas like the Triad, Charlotte/Mecklenburg where Davie’s neighboring counties offer support groups. They also have a page outlining their advocacy efforts here in NC. https://www.bianc.net/advocacy/nc-priorities/. These efforts include representation of the State Consumer and Family Advisory Committee, efforts to increase funding, supporting the expansion of the TBI Medicaid Waiver, monitoring Medicaid Transformation, their search for a TBI Champion to advocate in the NC Legislatures, and increase representation on the Olmstead Housing Plan.

Finally, from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ website; aans.org, offers general head injury prevention tips.

• Wear a seatbelt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.

• Never drive while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or ride as a passenger with anyone who is under the influence.

• Keep firearms unloaded in a locked cabinet or safe, and store ammunition in a separate, secure location.

• Remove hazards in the home that may contribute to falls. Secure rugs and loose electrical cords, put away toys, use safety gates and install window guards. Install grab bars and handrails if you are frail or elderly.

Sports and Recreation Head Injury Prevention Tips

• For specific sports, 100 percent of the time, buy and use helmets or protective headgear approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

• Supervise younger children at all times.

• Do not allow younger children to use sporting equipment or play sports unsuitable for their age.

• Avoid the use of playgrounds with hard surfaces.

• Follow all rules and warning signs at water parks, swimming pools and public beaches.

• Do not dive in water less than 12 feet deep or in above-ground pools. Check the depth – and check for debris in the water before diving.

• Wear appropriate clothing for the sport.

• Do not wear any clothing that can interfere with your vision.

• Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired.

• Obey all traffic signals and be aware of drivers when cycling or skateboarding.

• Avoid uneven or unpaved surfaces when cycling, skateboarding or in-line skating.

• Perform regular safety checks of sports fields, playgrounds, and equipment.

• Discard and replace damaged sporting equipment or protective gear.

• Never slide head-first when stealing a base.”

Hopefully, you and your family members will follow these tips and avoid TBIs, but if an incident is unavoidable and you find yourselves in need of services and supports this information will help you ask the right questions and put you on the right track to finding the services and supports you need.

If you are already in this unfortunate position, perhaps this will prompt you to start a local support group for yourself and other Davie families affected by TBIs.

As always, you may contact me if you need help with services or supports for your Mental Health needs. I will do my best to help you find available resources. Email missjulieysl@gmail.com.