Brain battered

IT is little known that brain injury is one of the leading causes of disability in Australia, with one in 12 people living with acquired brain injuries.

Violence is one of the main causes of brain injury in WA. While men dominate the statistics, accounting for 75 per cent of people diagnosed with a brain injury, many women also suffer brain injuries from family or domestic violence.

In the lead-up to Brain Injury Awareness Week (August 17-24), brain injury caused by family violence is an issue that needs community attention.

Evidence suggests many women in physically abusive relationships are at risk of suffering brain injuries. Statistically, one third of women who are victims of family violence will sustain head trauma.

However, in many cases, women are not even aware that they may have sustained a brain injury.

Their immediate concern is on the visible signs of the abuse and many do not realise that poor short-term memory, irritability or depression may be a sign of brain injury.

Because of the nature of ongoing domestic violence, over time repeated brain injuries can lead to a range of increased cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities, or personality or behavioural changes. There is a strong link between brain injury and mental health difficulties.

People with brain injuries are more likely to be estranged from friends and family, increasing social isolation and vulnerability.

They are also more at risk of being unemployed, homeless or involved with the justice system.

Early intervention services aimed at reducing violence and supporting individuals who experience family and domestic violence are critical.

Increased awareness of the causes, signs and effects of brain injury are also essential to help lessen the incidence of brain injury in WA, and to help people with acquired brain injuries access appropriate support. Headwest provides advocacy support to people with a brain injury in WA.

In the present climate, where cuts to government funding for community services seem to be the norm, vulnerable people are even more at risk.

With each cut, there is a greater subsequent cost for the community in supporting people with a brain injury.

Surely, prevention is best.

TRACY FOULDS, chief executive,

Headwest Brain Injury

Association of WA Inc.