Tackling brain injuries together

When you have suffered an injury that could have life-altering effects there is comfort in confiding with others in your situation. To support individuals with a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), otherwise known as a concussion, an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Psychosocial Support Group is offered at Parkwood Institute.ABI brain injury support group

The ABI Psychosocial Support Group meets for its last session. Clockwise from bottom left: Bob Lomax, Melissa DeWaal, Nathan Urquhart, Lisa Reilly and Scott Howard.

Mild brain injuries commonly have no visible indicators. Yet damage to the brain causes symptoms that can make everyday tasks difficult. Symptoms include fatigue, mental exhaustion, headaches, memory loss, poor concentration and trouble sleeping. These individuals may also have anxiety and feelings of depression.

Most individuals with mTBI recover in four to six weeks, however for 20 to 25 per cent the symptoms do not subside and they continue to live with challenges for months and possibly years after their accident, explains Bob Lomax, an ABI social worker who runs the group. The group provides a safe place for these individuals to come together and support one another without having to worry about being misunderstood or judged. They can interact with others in a similar situation, share their struggles and learn how to cope with their injury and the subsequent symptoms.

“This group has been amazing; it has greatly exceeded my expectations,” Lisa Reilly said with a smile on her face. “It can be mentally exhausting to try and explain everything you are going through to others, but in this group, you don’t have to, everyone just gets it.” Lisa also finds listening to her group members’ stories and learning they have similar problems gives her comfort and hope, reminding her that she is not alone.

Similarly, Scott Howard has really seen the “support” in support group. “We are all rooting for each other. They cheer me on when I have future challenges, such as a vacation or party. It is great to know they are all behind me, wanting me to succeed.”

The group is small – six to eight members – to allow time for everyone to share their stories and get to know one another. Meeting once a week for nine weeks, the group supplements participants’ therapy at Parkwood Institute. Each week there is a new topic, covering areas such as loss and grief, anxiety, frustration and helping others to understand what they can and cannot do.

"It has been an unbelievable experience being involved in this support group,” explained Melissa DeWaal, another member of the group. “I have learnt a great deal of information to live by. I’m learning to adapt to my new normal,

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