The invisible injury which needs to be seen

By Danae Ingram

Maybe today seems like just your average day, with nothing unusual or noteworthy jumping out. Yet, it is very likely that today you already have or will cross paths with a person who has an invisible injury.

Approximately every three minutes one person in Canada will sustain a brain injury.

While brain injuries are staggeringly frequent, most people are unaware of the myriad symptoms of this seemingly invisible injury.

The causes and factors contributing to these often life-changing brain injuries are even further varied.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) presents more often and with greater devastation among certain demographics such as victims of Intimate Partner Violence, within Indigenous Communities and among Incarcerated populations.

For Victims of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), TBI is alarmingly frequent with as many as “92% of incidents involving hits to the head and face, and strangulation.” In circumstances where strangulation is inflicted it may cause the brain to become deprived of oxygen, resulting in brain injury. According to Brain Injury Canada “Some victims can die weeks after being strangled because of the underlying brain damage, even if there is no visible injury.”

Sadly, up to 75% of women do not seek medical care for suspected brain injury. All of which further exacerbates the long-term impact and trauma because as Brain Injury Canada reports “Survivors and care providers can also mistake brain injury symptoms for the emotional distress brought about by the abuse itself.”

For Indigenous communities, TBI is even more prevalent and is the leading cause of potential years of life lost with ‘rates 4 times higher than in the rest of Canada.” Along with the higher incidence of TBI, Indigenous peoples quality of life post injury decreases and treatment is fraught with challenges including “lack of social support; difficulty of travel and socio-cultural factors associated with post-acute care; and concurrent disorders.”

Mike Dull is a Halifax lawyer with Valent Legal, who specializes in helping individuals who are dealing with a brain injury. “The harms associated with mild traumatic brain injuries can be very extensive and all-encompassing. It can impact a person’s ability to work or their relationships with loved ones.” Dull said.

Dull explains, “what unfortunately often compounds these harms is that the vast majority will not show up on imaging. There is no way for them to objectively prove their injury. This leads to disability insurers, employers or sometimes even well-meaning family members, questioning the true extent of the impairment. It’s frustrating and sad”.

Not only are TBI described as ‘invisible’ but they are more common for many people who are often report feeling invisible to the larger society.

Independent of the circumstances of the sustained brain injury, there are lasting impacts. Not the least of which are the impacts to mental health.

“An individual has a significantly greater chance of developing a diagnosable mental illness after sustaining an acquired brain injury.” Further underlined by this data point: “50% of patients experience personality change, irritability, anxiety, and depression after concussion. These neuropsychiatric symptoms are not unique, but part of the natural course following concussion.”

For more statistics on Brain Injury for Canadians, read the Brain Injury Canada Report.

And for important legal advice regarding your Brain Injury, turn to Valent Legal.

For more insight on this topic, here is Todd Veinotte’s Monthly Interview with Mike Dull from Valent Legal.


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