Action for Brain Injury Week (9-15th May) is a date we should all have marked in our diaries. If you are reading this then it is highly likely that you or someone close to you has suffered the trauma of going through an Acquired Brain Injury or Traumatic Brain Injury that has changed your life forever. Brain injury in all its forms is often overlooked, misunderstood and generally not considered by most people who have had no experience of dealing with it when they think of disability. Amongst people who DO know the manifestations of the condition and how they affect a patient’s life, victims and their families, it is often referred to as an invisible disability or a disability behind a mask. Often we look like run of the mill people, we do our best to live our lives as best we can post-injury and the subject certainly isn’t an opening line in social situations: “Hi, my name’s Tom. I had a brain hemorrhage when I was nineteen!” Never an opener I’ve used. When we consider all of this, it is not really that surprising that there is such a lack of ABI/TBI awareness amongst the population of Great Britain. But what can we do about that, I hear you ask.
Here’s What Action For Brain Injury Week Means
The truth is that this week provides us with a spectacular opportunity to raise awareness, get the word out and bring brain injury closer to the forefront of discussion within society and how the issue needs assistance. However, as the name suggests, that requires action on our part. If there is one thing that I have learnt since my brain injury is that nobody is going to do it for you. We have the chance to explain and share information on how and why ABI and TBI victims need help; financial assistance, specialist care, social and physical rehabilitation programs set up specifically for people with brain injuries instead of shoe horning them into unsuitable programs for different conditions that have tenuous links in terms of the way that the conditions manifest themselves. This week we have the opportunity to bring brain injury closer to the forefront of British society and open up the channels for action and discussion. Truth be told, we have never lived in a better time to raise awareness and potentially bring forth action.
Tools At Our Disposal
For an issue as complex and difficult to relate to as ABI or TBI to be acknowledged by people higher up and for people to take the type of actions I described above, the conversation regarding brain injury needs to take place in an open and frank manner. For issues to be addressed, ignorance and negative stigma surrounding the topic need to be dismissed and people have to be able to access information and educate themselves on exactly what it is they are talking about. Find out what needs changing and what societal and institutional problems need tackling. Fortunately, in the modern world we live in, information is far easier to access than it ever has been. No longer are we restricted to archives and libraries having to gather information from books. The multiple social media and blogging platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress) we now have at our disposal to share and discuss news and information are so many and so varied that small scale movements have been able to get off the ground, evolving into large scale movements, simply by their ability to go viral and start trending on websites that billions of people all over the world can access.
How Do We Take Action?
Well first of all, we need to be honest and forthcoming with information we have. Information that is personal and stories about ourselves where people can emphathise with us, not just sympathise. People need to read, see and hear what having a brain injury is like, how the injury manifests itself both physically and psychologically. People need to know how living with a brain injury makes you feel, how it has changed your life and how it has limited your choices and abilities. This is such an important factor in bringing this subject further out into the open. I make no secret of my injury and how it has changed my life in ways I didn’t think possible (see more of my stories here: https://lifeafterabraininjurydotorg.wordpress.com) but I realise that is not the case for many people. Many people do not want to or feel unable to talk about their experiences with brain injury. If that is the case for you, you may feel that you are not any use to the Action for Brain Injury Week movement when that’s simply not the case.
Another key aspect of raising awareness during Action for Brain Injury Week, as far as I see it, is sharing general information regarding brain injuries. Whether that information is found in books at the library, read online or in a newspaper, sharing it and distributing it to a wider audience in some fashion (if IT is not in your skill set) is so valuable to the cause. As is voluntary work with chapters and sections of your local charity (charities like Headway) to help distribute information, leaflets, newsletters, volunteering to make tea t the office. All of these things contribute to helping raise awareness on brain injuries in the UK and across the globe. Even if you are not feeling up to creating and sharing content and you just want to help behind the scenes, you are still a cog in a large machine, you are still important and you are still taking action!
How Can We Hope To Succeed?
A common part of ABI/TBI is that you can feel as though things are hopeless, a feeling helplessness, as though nothing can be done to change the situation. The times where that is the case and things stay the same is because people don’t take action when they need to. To bring brain injury as a disability into conversation in the UK means we all have to contribute in carrying the heavy burden that is ABI/TBI to the place where the conversation takes place. I would also add that it’s vital that once this week is over we don’t stop distributing information, volunteering for your chosen charity and sharing our stories. For this to be successful we need to continue doing these things and making people aware that brain injury is a condition that affects us every single day and that we will live with it for the rest of our lives. So please, I urge you, I beg you, get involved and take Action for Brain Injury this week. We can all make a difference in our own way. It won’t happen immediately and it may take a long time but in the future it’s possible that we will all have contributed to something that will change the lives of future generations.
So join us all in spreading awareness on Brain Injury this week (9-15th May). For more information on how you can get involved, drop us an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author
My life was changed for ever on the 30th of August 2009 when an attack on a night out left me with sever brain injuries. I was left in an induced coma after suffering fractures to the skull, bleeds on the brain, as well as severe bruising to the frontal lobes. Since the injury I have found it hard to find and keep work, to maintain relationships, and generally stay positive. I have decided to share all of my journey with you, in the hope we can bring brain injury awareness to the level it should be at. Please, follow my own WordPress blog Life After Brain Injury to keep up to date with my brain injury journey! Follow me on Twitter: @ABIBlogger
Tom Massey, ABI Blogger