Brain Injury Awareness Week Highlights Invisible Disabilities
Brain Injury Awareness Week runs from 19-25 August and heralds
an opportunity to raise awareness for the 700,000 Australians who
live with a brain injury.
Adam Schickerling, National Director - Strategy and Engagement
at Synapse - Australia's Brain Injury
Organisation believes the estimated figure of 700,000
Australians living with brain injury, according to the Australian
Bureau of Statistics, is underestimated.
"Some people who have a brain injury don't realise that they
have a brain injury or disability," said Mr Schickerling.
"For example, we've spoken to people who have been sent home from
hospital after a major incident, such as an aneurysm, without
understanding that they have a brain injury. They can live their
whole lives without understanding why their memory may be poor or
why they have difficulties communicating. When they contact Synapse
and understand that they have a brain injury, they are relieved to
finally understand why they are experiencing symptoms."
Synapse is raising awareness about brain injury by highlighting
"Brain injury is called an invisible disability because there
are often no visible physical signs of injury," he said. "Because
the injury can't be seen, this means that people who have a brain
injury can be misunderstood and treated differently. People can
assume that the person has an intellectual disability when they
don't. Brain injury isn't a mental health disorder either, all
though mental health effects can be present after a brain
Brain injury is caused by many things, including stroke and
aneurysms, degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's,
traumatic injury, hypoxic/anoxic injuries (lack of oxygen to the
brain), infections and diseases such as meningitis, cancer and
Encephalitis, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and alcohol
and/or drug misuse.
"Brain injury has a significant impact on families, so
Brain Injury Awareness Week is also important to carers of people
with a brain injury," he said. "For example, a frontal lobe injury
can impact on self-awareness and insight, motivation and
initiation, attention and concentration and so many other areas
that affect behaviour."
Mr Schickerling said, "Brain injury can happen suddenly and is a
life-changing event. Many people who have a brain injury talk about
the person they were before the brain injury and the person they
Brain injury also has a profound effect on homelessness and on
the prison population.
"A study by Victoria Corrections found that over 40 percent of
male prisoners and over 30 percent of female prisoners have a brain
injury. If a brain injury occurs in the parietal lobe, the person
may have no impulse control and this can increase their likelihood
of ending up in jail. They might also regularly fail to meet parole
conditions because they can't remember appointments or parole
requirements [and] they can also forget to pay their rent or other
housing requirements which leads to homelessness."
The prevalence of brain injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people is particularly high, with the community three
times more likely to experience brain injury.
Domestic violence is also a major cause of brain injury. In
2018, the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency found that 40 percent
of domestic violence victims sustained a brain injury. Brain injury
can also cause family separations and relationship breakdowns.
"When they don't get the right support, parents with a brain
injury might also find it more difficult to manage caring for
children because of poor memory and other effects. Sometimes this
can lead to children being removed which can be incredibly
distressing for the family."
During Brain Injury Awareness Week, Synapse is holding events
for people who are involved in their SynapseCarers and Synapse
Reconnections peer support and peer mentoring programs, including a
barefoot bowling event in regional New South Wales.
Synapse is encouraging the Australian community to get involved
throughout the week. During Brain Injury Awareness Week people can
help raise awareness, whether it's by sharing information online,
talking to friends about brain injury, donating to Synapse or
holding a fundraising