For most people, the thought of being impacted by a brain injury or even knowing someone who has dealt with one is unimaginable. Admittedly, the thought never crossed my mind until 11 years ago when my father had a massive stroke, one of the most common types of brain injuries.
What started out as an ordinary day in March of 2010 ended in my father becoming part of the 5.3 million people in the United States living with a permanent brain injury-related disability, according to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA). As I have witnessed firsthand how brain injuries affect individuals both physically and cognitively, it is imperative that we create a dialogue to help bring awareness to brain injuries. The BIAA recognizes March as Brain Injury Awareness Month, presenting an opportunity to reflect on this topic and address the harmful stigma surrounding brain injuries.
The BIAA takes great pride in continuing to foster this tradition year after year, doing its part every March with a public awareness campaign. This year’s central message is #MoreThanMyBrainInjury. This campaign is designed to bring awareness and education to the general public about the prevalence of brain injuries and what it is like to live with one. Further, #MoreThanMyBrainInjury emphasizes the need to destigmatize these injuries and promotes resources and support available to those impacted and their loved ones.
Many people with disabilities may feel constrained and trapped by their label of injury. Therefore, the BIAA’s central message of #MoreThanMyBrainInjury serves as a catalyst for awareness and empowers individuals to overcome labels of limitation and stigmas. Because every brain injury is different and comes with a range of difficulties, including compromised cognitive function, speech, language, perception and paralysis, this has resulted in stigmas that are extremely dangerous and disrespectful.
Often in brain injury recovery, the individual may seem perfectly fine and in tune one day, but physically and mentally worn out the next day. Because of this, individuals can experience discrimination from family, friends, co-workers and others, as well as suffering from self-stigma due to physical and social isolation. It is crucial to remember that those who have sustained brain injuries are valuable members of our communities too and deserve utmost respect.
Lives are impacted by brain injuries every single day and everyone is at risk, whether it is a child who falls playing in the yard, a victim of a car accident or a survivor of a stroke. We need to do our part to support those who are living with brain injuries, as this is a topic that affects all people, regardless of age, race, gender or background. It is integral that we all do our part this March to become educated, aware and empowered in honoring Brain Injury Awareness Month.