By Courtney Reyers, NAMI Director of Publishing
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to learn more about traumatic brain injury (TBI) and how it can affect someone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention (CDC), 1.7 million Americans sustain a brain injury each year. A brain injury is a long-term or temporary disruption in brain function resulting from injury to the brain. A TBI occurs when there is a strong enough impact to the head to cause damage to the brain. Common causes of TBI include motorcycle accidents, sports injuries, falls or acts of violence.
TBI has been called the “signature injury” of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Increasingly, soldiers are surviving nearby bomb blasts, which produce brain injury through pressure waves that “shake” the brain, which can cause symptoms ranging from dizziness and drowsiness to vomiting, severe headache and shock. If the injury is severe enough the damage can be irreversible, leaving lasting mental effects including depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out and social inappropriateness. TBI can cause changes in personality, thinking and sensation and increase the risk of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders.
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) founded Brain Injury Awareness Month this year, and the organization’s affiliates advocate for treatment and services around brain injuries, much like NAMI does for mental illness.