Elana got in a car accident while driving to work. Tom slipped on an icy sidewalk and hit his head. Both have something in common. They suffered a brain injury, a condition that can affect the way we think, act, and feel.
In the U.S., someone sustains a brain injury every nine seconds — and this number is likely an undercount, since many people never seek treatment. At least 5.3 million Americans are living with brain injury-related disabilities. That’s roughly 1 in 60 people.
For the past 30 years, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) has designated March as Brain Injury Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness and support people living with brain injuries.
This year’s theme is “More Than My Brain Injury”. The campaign’s aim is to reduce stigma and help people understand who individuals with brain injuries are as a person instead of being defined by their injuries.
Brain injuries can happen to anyone, anytime. They can be the result of a serious accident, but they can also happen after even a seemingly minor bump or blow to the head. The most common causes of brain injury are a fall, motor vehicle accident, or assault.
Every brain is different. Likewise, no two people with brain injuries will have exactly the same symptoms. People with brain injuries may experience headaches, seizures, memory loss, or trouble concentrating. They may need assistance with everyday activities, or have difficulty performing their job in the same way as before. A substantial number of people with brain injuries will have permanent disabilities.
In addition, individuals with brain injuries may experience stigma and social isolation. Because brain injuries are often invisible, people may underestimate how serious this condition can be. Friends and family members might have difficulty understanding changes in mood, behavior, and memory. Individuals with brain injuries often face barriers to employment, or feel the need to hide their condition in order to get a job. However, when people have a better understanding of brain injury, they are less likely to enforce negative stereotypes and discrimination.
So how can you help raise awareness and promote understanding about brain injuries during Brain Injury Awareness Month? Here are six ways to participate:
Brain Injury Awareness Month is a great time to educate yourself and others about brain injuries. Now that you know the facts about brain injuries, use your social media channels to share them. Be sure to use the hashtag #MoreThanMyBrainInjury. You can also download graphics, social media templates, and awareness materials from the BIAA here.
Sharing stories about brain injury can help reduce the stigma around them. Stories help us put a face to this condition and see people with brain injuries as people first and foremost. We encourage you to read and share the stories on the BIAA’s blog. These are the personal stories of people with brain injuries, their families, and caregivers.
Another easy way to start a conversation about brain injuries is with your Zoom background. You can add the Brain Injury Awareness Month #ChangeYourMind stamp to your background. You could also use one of these ‘brainy’ backgrounds from the Society for Neuroscience.
March is a great time to explore the many books that have been written about brain injuries. Books can help broaden our understanding of brain injuries and see them from a new perspective. Talk to your local librarians about putting together a display of books and DVDs for Brain Injury Awareness Month. If you partner with local schools or businesses, you can also see if they’d be willing to host a display. Some books to include:
If you want to take things a step further, consider joining or hosting a fundraising event. Every year, the BIAA hosts the Bowling for Brain Injury Event. The Brain Injury Alliance also hosts a number of fundraising walks and 5Ks around the country. In addition to participating in a walk or run, you have the option to host your own community or virtual fundraising event. Here’s how to get started.
There are many different ways to donate your time and talent. You could put your creative abilities to use by submitting artwork for the BIAA’s social media page, or use your research skills to help expand the National Brain Injury Information Center’s state-by-state resource list. Caregivers and professionals in the field can also help develop new programs and educational initiatives by contributing to a BIAA focus group. See the full list of volunteer opportunities and how to connect here.
So there you have it: six ways to participate in Brain Injury Awareness Month and make a difference for people living with brain injuries. For more disability-related events and observances you can participate in all year, download our free Disability Events Calendar.
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