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Mental Health Week (4 - 11 October 2015)


Mental Health Week (4 - 11 October 2015)

Mental Health Week offers us a chance to reflect on mental health and take some positive steps to highlight the importance of mental wellbeing.


We know that many people find themselves coping not only with the effects of a Brain Injury, but also a mental illness.

A mental illness can cause additional stress for the person and their family after a Brain Injury. Common forms of mental illness include depression, anxiety, and obsessive or compulsive behaviour. It can be very difficult obtaining good support as services are normally provided specifically for Brain Injury, or mental illness - not both.

The link between mental illness & Brain Injury

A mental illness may have been present prior to Brain Injury. A Brain Injury is also a known risk factor for developing a mental illness.1 One report indicates 42% of people as having a dual diagnosis.2 Issues following a Brain Injury that may lead to a mental illness include grief and loss, adjustment to disability, pre-injury personality traits and strengths, coping skills and level of social support.3

It can also occur in the other direction. People with a mental health disorder are at an increased risk of Brain Injury when changes in cognitive abilities include reaction time, alertness and increased risk of self-harm.

Treatment & support

Dual-diagnosis situations require additional support and a holistic approach, which may include medication, psychological therapy, and programs focusing on social skills/living skills re-training.

The first step is to get an appropriate assessment by a qualified specialist, such as a neuropsychologist or psychiatrist. There should be a care plan upon discharge outlining supports and services in the community to prevent relapse. Case management should be provided to co-ordinate any mental health and Brain Injury services.

It is not uncommon for people with a dual diagnosis to access support - mental health services will say they need a Brain Injury service, but the Brain Injury services say they should go to a mental health service. You may like to seek the support of an advocate to resolve this lack of support for dual diagnosis situations.

References and further information

1 Hibbard, M.R., Uysal, S., Kepler, K., Bogdany, J., & Silver, J. (1998). Axis I Psychopathology in Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury. Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 13, 24-39.

2 Van Reekum, R., Bolago, I., Finlayson, M. A. J. (1996). Psychiatric disorders after traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 10, 319 - 328.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2007). Bulletin 55: Disability In Australia: acquired brain injury. Retrieved 18 August, 2009. 

3 Victorian Government Department of Human Services. (2004). Acquired Brain Injury and Mental Illness: Protocol between mental health and other services. Retrieved 18 August, 2009.

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