Brain Injury Support Networks

Introduction: Brain Injuries

Brain injuries occur when the brain experiences an external force that penetrates intracranial matter. Some injuries arise from direct impact—these tend to be more serious—or accelerated force with no direct impact. Car and motorcycle accidents, serious falls and other forms of violence are the most common causes of brain injuries.

By nature, brain injuries are serious; even “minor” traumas cause secondary ailments, which lead to physical, cognitive and behavioral changes. Although there is a wide range of brain injuries, they are generally classified as either a traumatic brain injury or an acquired brain injury. They can also be categorized as open or closed-brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries, also referred to as intracranial injuries, are the most serious type of intracranial distress. They occur when direct force is applied to the head or when the skull breaks and injures the brain. Although this type of head trauma most often occurs through forms of violence or auto accidents, they can also be the result of overly rapid head movements, which shake the brain hard enough to damage the skull. For example, this type of shaking is responsible for Shaken Baby Syndrome. Traumatic brain injuries include diffuse axonal injuries, concussions and contusions.

Acquired brain injuries, on the other hand, occur on the cellular level. As traumatic brain injuries usually affect a limited area of the brain, acquired brain injuries affect the entire brain. The most common reasons for acquired brain injuries include electrical shock, air obstruction and severe blood loss.

Brain Injuries Sustained at Work: Employer Accountability

Sometimes brain injuries occur at work, such as on construction sites, where an average of 1,000 construction workers die each year, many from traumatic brain injuries. Although employer compensation differs from state-to-state and job-to-job, most states mandate that employers include workers’ compensation packages that cover for some of the costs sustained during on-site injuries. However, with injuries as severe as brain trauma, which also have long recovery times, workers compensation is often inadequate.

An injured employee can decide to take legal action if their employers do not compensate them fairly, as employers should be held accountable for not providing adequate safety measures to protect their employees.

Support Groups and Organizations

Brain injuries are unexpected and life changing; a traumatic injury of this magnitude requires not only quality medical care but also support networks and organizations. Support groups are important sources of information and networking, providing emotional support for individuals who have been impacted by brain injuries. After all, encouragement and support can go a long way in helping both the injured and their loved ones to heal.

Support groups function on many different levels. Most groups meet monthly in order to share their experiences. In addition to these informal meetings, some local support groups also provide presentations by specialists, as well as recreational activities for members to bond. Some organizations, like the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa, have mentoring programs that pair an experienced peer-mentor with a “partner” who has recently started coping with brain trauma. Other support groups offer access to community resources and services and provide training to volunteers and services providers. Some support groups also provide direct training to other organizations and individuals through “brain injury awareness” programs, which explore the possibilities of injury-induced behavioral changes and how to best deal with such changes. Some organizations offer informational workshops to families of the injured, as well as workshops on practical matters such as returning to work after a brain injury.

Overall, support groups give individuals the strategies they need in order to emotionally and physically deal with brain injuries. Family members of the injured often need emotional support, while those who have been injured can turn to support groups during their rehabilitation and recovery. Also, as recovery from brain injuries can take a significant amount of time, insurance coverage frequently stops before the patient’s full recovery. Support groups, then, provide an alternative but vital space of listening and sharing, as well as educational and recreational opportunities.

If you need further information on brain injury support groups, the following is a list of resources you can use.

Additional Information on Brain Injury Support Groups

  •—BrainLine is a national multimedia online project that offers updated information and resources about treating and living with traumatic brain injuries.
  • Brain Injury Association of America (BIA)—Often considered the go-to resource for anyone impacted by a brain injury, BIA is also the country’s oldest and most established brain injury advocacy organization. It is made up of local chapters but also runs national conferences and forums.
  • Brain Injury Resource Center—This website lists services and resources that reflect current best practices in the field of traumatic brain injury. It includes contacts for in-service training and case management for those whose lives have been changed by brain injuries.