As we wind down Brain Injury Awareness Month this year, I wanted to express optimism in what appears to be a growing awareness that has not been seen before. Or perhaps it's just me. In going through the changes in my own life, could it be that my new awareness is making me see and understand brain injuries as only a survivor can see from learning more about this invisible problem? Or maybe it's a little of both. For me, I was fortunate to have met so many along the way over the past 8 years who have been dealing with brain injuries both as victims as well as people who have been working with brain injury surviviors.
Dr. Amen re-posted a video today called 'Hurt Brains Hurt People' and he says a lot in 6 minutes.
One of the things I've been saying to people lately at group meetings or discussions about brain injuries, "How do you know if the guy who just shot 10 people at the mall last week played football in college 5 years ago? Or had a severe car accident?"
And the answer is, "You don't."
In every one of these mass killings or other "crazy" events (we had our own here in Seattle last week with #ManinTree!), there hasn't been any attempts to look inside the brains of each of these people to see what was wrong.
With the new dialog now coming to the forefront due to the rising awareness from the first discovery of CTE in the brain of a homeless football player – Mike Webster – by Dr. Bennet Omalu back in 2002, leading to the movie Concussion which hit the big screen this past Chrsitmas, our mainstream media seems to be finally putting more focus on brain injuries. For better or for worse, the retired football players have become the petri dish that shows us what happens to the brain when it's shaken and injured numerous times over many years. And the research has proven useful. And without any doubt, footbal players have the prominence to draw attention to the problem. But now we need to take thiese studies to a new level. And to be even more inclusive. Brain injuries can happen to anyone and everyone. And they affect all of us in one way or another, directly or indirectly.
It's become more apparent that our returning veterans have large numbers among them who have suffered brain injuries of one type or another during their time in service; whether from an IED or missile or bomb fire, the repurcussions that follow have contrinuted to a growing number of daily suicides (reported to be 22 a day at last count), as well as large-scale PTSD. All too many of these service members have been ignored or kicked to the curb with no benefits or even access to treatments that work. And so we have another generation of wounded to add to our shrinking generation of Vietnam vets, many of whom have been living homeless on our streets.
Then you have accident victims or victims of crime who walk around with invisible injuries just trying to make it through the day. Both the retired vets and civilian brain-injured are truly invisible, unlike the football players, many of whom enjoyed recognition from playing in the NFL.