Free mental health & daily living apps

Many people are spending more time on their computers and phones as the world shifts to digital communication and services. This means that web-based supports and tools are expanding – including mental health and daily living apps for smartphones and tablets.

Many mental health and daily living apps are designed to help people self-manage difficulties with mental health and daily activities. They can be helpful tools for people with brain injury.

These apps are not meant to be a replacement for therapy with qualified health professionals. If you find that an app, or a combination of apps, is not meeting your needs, talk do your doctor about other treatment options.

How to choose an app

The Mental Health Commission of Canada published a helpful infographic about what factors you should consider when selecting and using a mental health application. This can also be used for choosing other apps. Factors you should consider include:

  • Effectiveness
  • Usability
  • Security/Privacy
  • Purpose of the app
  • Inclusion
  • Price
  • Transparency

For more details, check out the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s infographic.

Mental health & daily living apps for Canadians

While there are many apps available to download, we’ve included a small selection here to get you started. Please keep in mind that you may be asked to make an account in order to login and use the application. While all the applications we have included here are free to download, they may offer additional features for a fee once you are in the app. They may also keep and use your personal information. 

CanPlan

Cost: Free

This app is specifically designed to help people with cognitive challenges complete tasks. It allows you to break a task into different steps, add photos for each step, provides audio prompts, and even lets you make task schedules.

CanPlan is one of the several apps developed by the CanAssist organization from the University of Victoria in British Columbia. These apps are designed to support independent daily living for individuals with disabilities.

Colorfy

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

This app is an example of a digital colouring app. This can be a soothing activity. It can be done using your finger, so you don’t need any extra tools or space.

Happify

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

Happify is an app that works to build a variety of positivity-related skills through activities and habits. Happify also has several built-in accessibility features.

You can find it in the Apple or Android app stores.

HealthyMinds

Cost: Free

This is an app specifically designed for students who are balancing life and school. It includes activities for calming down and managing stress.

Hope by CAMH

Cost: Free

Developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, this Canadian app is a suicide prevention toolkit that includes crisis resources. Users are able to create a personal safety plan in consultation with others, and access this plan whenever they need it.

MindShift

Cost: Free

MindShift is a free app that uses cognitive behaviour therapy strategies to help provide anxiety relief. It was built by and designed for Canadians. It includes features such as check-ins, symptom tracking, quick relief supports, and goal setting.

Nature Soundscapes

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

Nature Soundscapes can be helpful in developing a healthy sleep routine by playing non-stop nature sounds.

RootD

Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

Panic attacks can be a common occurrence for people experiencing mental health and anxiety challenges. RootD is designed to help with panic attacks as they happen.

Virtual Hope Box

Cost: Free

This app is a grounding tool that has a variety of activities to help with relaxation and coping. These activities can be customized with content that the individual user chooses, such as family photos.

What’s Up?

Cost: Free

What’s Up? is an app that includes cognitive behavioural therapy strategies to help a person cope with mental health challenges.

Government support programs during COVID-19 pandemic

Federal and provincial governments in Canada share a lot of information about the coronavirus on a regular basis, including support programs and resources. Here are some links to COVID-19 supports organized by province/territory.

Canada (federal)

COVID-19 benefits and services

There are several programs in place at the federal level to support individuals and businesses. Please keep in mind that you will not be eligible for all programs.

The government has also released an economic response plan for COVID-19.

Alberta

The Alberta government has several supports in place, including financial support for parents, workers, and businesses. They also have resources for mental health, personal safety, and more.

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia has organized it’s COVID-19 support information by what you need for support. This could be families, loss of income, seniors or more.

If you are looking for the province’s most recent COVID-19 related announcements, they are posted on the government website.

The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control is where you will find information related to COVID-19.

Manitoba

The Manitoba government is offering multiple provincial support programs such as caregiver wage support and mental health virtual therapy.

New Brunswick

The province of New Brunswick has several guidelines and resources available to the public.

Newfoundland & Labrador

The Newfoundland & Labrador government releases regular updates on safety levels throughout the province, vaccination registration, and mental health resources.

Northwest Territories

The government’s website features vaccination updates, current safety recommendations, and a lot of information on resources, financial support, and updates on COVID-19 in the province.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has several programs in place to support those who are facing hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nunavut

Nunavut’s government publishes regular updates on COVID-19, the hotline number, and safety instructions.

Prince Edward Island

Information available includes how to avoid financial scams related to COVID-19, public resources, and financial services for those in need.

Ontario

The Ontario government website includes information on support for youth, financial aid, emergency services, and mental health

Quebec

The Government of Quebec’s website has information on the current state of coronavirus in the province, vaccination appointments, and financial assistance.

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan has several support programs and resources on their website, including the ability for eligible citizens to book their vaccine appointment online

Yukon

The Government of Yukon has several financial and social support programs in place such as paid sick leave rebates for employers and mental health resources.

Returning to work guidebook

Returning to work after an acquired brain injury

After an acquired brain injury, returning to work can feel like an almost impossible task. How would you manage your symptoms while trying to re-engage with work?

Perhaps you’ve recently attempted to return to work, only to find that you may not have properly shared what you need with your employer, or your workload and schedule is too much.

Brain Injury Canada is aware of the challenges faced by individuals who are attempting to return to work. To help navigate that transition, we have developed a return to work guidebook.

This guidebook will help you through the various stages of returning to work after an acquired brain injury, including:

  • What to be aware of and prepare for when considering a return to work
  • Practical self-assessment and planning tools for return-to-work readiness
  • Collaborative planning with your employer for a successful re-entry outcome
  • Possible challenges and solutions when on the job

This guidebook is supplemented with a range of resources, including:

  • Tip sheets
  • Developing SMART goals
  • Initiating conversations with your employer

It also includes key lessons learned from others who have been through the return to work process.

Return to work guidebook cover image

We’d like to thank the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada for their generous sponsorship which helped make this work book possible. We’d also like to give special appreciation to Jeff Cohen, President, Vocational Evaluator and Consultant at Vocational Alternatives Inc. for acting as an expert reviewer of the guidebook.

Download the Return to Work Guidebook

Webinars

Brain Injury Canada hosts educational webinars on a variety of topics, featuring speakers from across Canada. We host a mix of pre-recorded and live webinars, and all webinars and saved and posted on our YouTube so you can watch them at your convenience. You can also check out our most recent webinars below.


Being Kind to Your Mind: Mindfulness Practice

Follow along with Melissa Felteau, meditation therapist, as she completes a mindful breath practice designed to help with anxiety.


Making Hidden Disabilities Visible

Michelle McDonald, Laura Brydges, and Meri Perra discuss advocating for a national hidden disability symbol, and why it is needed.


Brain Injury and the Virtual World

This webinar created in partnership with our sponsor Opticalm is a helpful guide on setting up your screen and office for maximum visual comfort after brain injury


Check out our other videos

We’re more than just thoughtful, informative webinars. We’ve done a variety of interviews with people living with brain injury, quick clips with interesting facts, and awareness videos meant to be shared. You can find them all on our YouTube channel. Make sure to subscribe to access the latest videos first. You can also select specific webinars from the list below.

Community

Inspire. Educate. Support.

People living with brain injury and their families are sharing their personal stories with Brain Injury Canada to provide hope and support to those across Canada who are having similar experiences.


Michael-McNally

Michael McNally

Michael (Mike) McNally has been living with his brain injury since 2009. He has focused on his recovery and has helped the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) raise over $18,000 through fundraising walks.

Cindy-survivor

Cindy McNaughton

Cindy has experienced persistent concussion symptoms since hitting her head in 2015. She shares the challenges she has faced, and how a concussion impacted her life.


Jonathan-McMurray

Jonathan McMurray

Jonathan has been living with a brain injury since 1995 when he was in a motor vehicle accident. His recovery was a long process, and involved a lot of time and hard work. In his story, he shares what he has learned through his experiences.

Kinnie-Starr

Kinnie Starr

Musician Kinnie Starr acquired a brain injury in 2015 after a distracted driver collided with her taxi in downtown Vancouver at 70 kilometres an hour. But she didn’t know about it until 18 months later. She describes her experience in recovery and the process of returning to her music.


Tim-Kerr

Tim Kerr

Tim Kerr was a Naval Commander who suffered a stroke in 2012 while at sea. He was airlifted to an American hospital, eventually making his way back to Ottawa for rehabilitation. He shares the challenges he faced, how he navigated his return to work, and what motivated him during his recovery.

Kiesza

Kiesza

Kiesza is an international singer, songwriter and performing artist who acquired a brain injury in 2017. She shares her recovery experience, the impact on her career, and her decision to launch her own label, Zebra Spirit Tribe.


julianne heagy

Julianne Heagy

Julianne experienced a stroke in 2019, and shares here experience with recovery and tips that have helped her in her rehabilitation.

Evan-Wall

Evan Wall

Evan Wall was a bright 19-year-old from the small town of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan who was in a severe car accident in 2016, resulting in a traumatic brain injury.

Carrick Wilken

Carrick shares their story of how they navigated vision loss and cognitive effects after a brain injury.

Additional financial assistance

Financial assistance from insurance benefits

Depending on what kind of private insurance you have, you may be eligible for financial support from your policy.

For more information about insurance, visit our page on types of insurance that may be able to help with recovery and rehabilitation costs

Financial assistance from work

Please note: depending on your employer and the circumstances surrounding your injury, you may not be eligible or entitled to financial assistance from an employer.

Employee healthcare benefits and disability benefits

Depending on your workplace, you may have access to healthcare plans that you have either been paying into or have been provided by your company. Coverage through company healthcare plans vary so you will need to check with your employer and look at your policy. Healthcare plans commonly cover services such as prescriptions and some therapies.

If your employer pays for disability insurance, you may have partial salary coverage if you can’t work because of your brain injury. You will need to speak with your employer about what coverage there may be and how to make a claim.

Canada workers benefit

The Canada workers benefit (CWB) is a refundable tax credit for eligible low-income individuals/families in the workforce. Part of the CWB is a disability supplement for those with an approved Disability Tax Credit certificate .

Non-insured health benefits for First Nations and Inuit

This program is designed for First Nations and Inuit individuals to provide coverage for health benefits that are not covered through social programs, private insurance plans, and provincial/territorial health insurance.

Health services covered under the Non-insured health benefits for First Nations and Inuit program include:

  • Vision care
  • Dental care
  • Mental health counselling
  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
  • Medical transportation

You are eligible for this benefit if you are a resident of Canada and if you meet any of the following criteria:

A child may also be eligible if they are less than 18 months old and their parent is a registered First Nations person or a recognized Inuk .

Renovation funding

If your home needs renovations in order to accommodate your changed abilities, there are some renovation grants available. Please note you may not be eligible for certain programs.

Excise gasoline tax refund

The Government of Canada offers a partial refund of the federal excise tax  on gasoline you buy if you are not able to safely use public transportation due to a permanent mobility impairment.

Education funding for persons with disabilities

Education comes with its own set of challenges when coping with a brain injury, including finances. The Government of Canada offers a few different programs to help students of any age with their education.

Child disability benefit

The child disability benefit is a tax-free monthly payment made to families with a child under 18 who has a severe and prolonged mental or physical impairment.

For more information on available sources of financial assistance, use this federal and provincial/territorial Benefits Finder.

Resources

Ordering forms from the Government of Canada

The Government of Canada offers alternate formats of its forms and publications for people with disabilities. These formats include digital audio (MP3), electronic text, Braille, and large print. To fulfill your order, you will need to know the form or publication number, title, and revision year.

Provincial/Territorial disability benefits

Financial assistance programs differ across the provinces and territories in Canada. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what you are eligible for and where to look for programs that may help you.

The Government of Canada has a great online tool that can help narrow down the federal and provincial/territorial financial assistance programs for which you may be eligible. Use this Benefits Finder to determine what federal or provincial/territorial benefits you may be eligible to receive. If you need some assistance, ask a caregiver, friend or family member to help you sort through the results.

In addition to the benefits finder, here is some additional information about financial assistance resources at the provincial/territorial levels.

Provincial and territorial disability services

Each province and territory has disability services. They can help you find out what financial assistance may be available to you.

More information about provincial and territorial disability benefits

Social/income assistance

Social assistance is a program designed by each province/territory to provide money to individuals/families who have explored all other means of financial support and are in financial need. The money is for basic needs such as food, rent, and utilities (heat, water and electricity).

The program requirements and eligibility is determined by each province and territory. You can learn more about your province or territory’s social/income assistance program in the list below.

Workers’ compensation

If your brain injury is a result of a workplace accident, the provincial/territorial Workers’ Compensation programs can help with financial assistance.

Please note: if you are a federal employee, your claims would go through the federal Labour Program.

 

Federal disability benefits

There are federal financial assistance programs available throughout Canada. Please keep in mind that you may not be eligible for every program.

Topics in this section include:


Disability Tax Credit (DTC)

Please note: if you receive other types of disability or insurance benefits (such as Canada Pension Plan disability benefits) you may not be eligible for the DTC. Please check the eligibility requirements and have a caregiver, friend or family member help you.

Eligibility
In order to be eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), you will need to fill out a T2201 Disability Tax Credit Certificate.

To find out if you are eligible, view the requirements for the Disability Tax Credit on the Government of Canada website. Once your certificate and application are received by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), it will go through a review process. You will be contacted if your application is approved or denied.

Please keep in mind that applying for a Disability Tax Credit (DTC) Certificate can take a long period of time, and you may find yourself getting frustrated with the process. It’s important to engage in calming activities and take breaks from working on your finances. Ask a caregiver or friend/family member to help you with the application and keep a record of all documents and communications you have about the DTC.


Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits

If you were working before your injury, you may be entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness Benefits. These benefits last for a maximum of 15 weeks (about three and a half months).  On EI sickness benefits, you can receive 55% of your pre-tax earnings, to a maximum of $573 a week.

If you are self-employed, or an independent contractor, you may be entitled to Employment Insurance if you registered for Employment Insurance Special Benefits for Self-Employed People, and meet certain conditions.

Prepare for your application for Employment Insurance (EI)
Applying for any type of financial assistance is always a lengthy process. After a brain injury, people often have memory issues and fatigue easily, especially after putting in some cognitive effort. Do not hesitate to ask for help from a caregiver, friend or family member who can assist you in gathering the information you need, and help with the application process.

The more prepared you are before you start your Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits application, the smoother the process will be. Before you begin, gather all the necessary documents and information you will need to fill out the application.

Applying in person vs. applying online
You can apply for EI at your local Service Canada office. The Service Canada offices are designed to be a one-stop shop for a variety of government services, including EI. If your local Service Canada Office is closed, you will not be able to apply for EI in person. Many services and resources are now online. While you may prefer to do it in person, you should be familiar with how to apply for EI online.

Many people who live with brain injury are sensitive to screens, particularly in the time period shortly after a brain injury. Being online can be difficult and possibly trigger symptoms of brain injury. If you are sensitive to screens, prepare to do the application in short chunks of time. You can try 20 minute blocks, followed by short breaks away from the screen. If using screens is not possible for you, ask a caregiver, family member or friend to help you with the online application process.

The EI application does not need to be finished all at once, but there is a time limit of 72 hours (3 days). If you do not finish the application within the 72 hour period your information will be deleted and you will need to start over again.

If you want to apply online, here is the online application for EI sickness benefits.

You can also apply for EI in person. Find your local Service Canada Office and enter your postal code. Please make sure to read whether or not your local office is open or operating with restrictions.

Submitting reports
If you are getting Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, you will need to fill out a report every 2 weeks to receive your benefits. You can submit these reports using the EI Internet Reporting Service or by calling the EI Telephone Reporting Service at (1-800) 531-7555.


Canada Pension Plan disability benefit

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit is a more permanent solution for financial assistance after brain injury. It is available throughout Canada, except in Quebec. If you live in Québec, please visit the Government of Québec’s website page on pension plans.

The CPP disability benefit is a taxable benefit for people under the age of 65 who are unable to work because of their disability. To be eligible for the CPP disability benefit, you need to have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan AND have a disability which is considered ‘severe and prolonged’.

This means your brain injury must:

  • Prevent you from working. This includes full-time, part-time or seasonal work
  • Have symptoms which will last for a ‘prolonged period’ of time (the foreseeable future). Generally a disability is considered a condition which interferes with a person’s daily activities.

The effects of your brain injury and how they impact your ability to work will be evaluated by the medical experts who review your application. Because of this, it is important to provide medical documentation to show the impact your brain injury has had on your life.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) eligibility and contributions
To be eligible for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit, you need to have contributed to the CPP.

How much you could receive from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit
This is based on how much you have paid into CPP. For current monthly averages and maximum monthly payments, you can check the Government of Canada’s CPP disability benefit amount.
How to apply for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit
You can apply for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit online or through the mail. Please keep in mind that this is a long application. No matter how you choose to submit it, you should take frequent breaks, ask for help, and assemble all necessary documents and information before you start.

If you have someone you know and trust to help you with your CPP application, you will need to give written permission to Service Canada for them to act on your behalf.  To do this, you will need to fill out the Consent to Communicate Information to an Authorized Person.

If you have any questions about the CPP application, processing times, or benefits, you can contact someone at the Canada Pension Plan program.

Canada Pension Plan post-retirement disability benefits
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) post-retirement disability benefit is similar to the CPP disability benefit. It is for people who acquire a disability under the age of 65 who have been receiving CPP payments for more than 15 months, and as such are not eligible for the regular disability benefit.

Benefits for children and youth under 25
If you have children either under the age of 18 or under the age of 25 and attending secondary education full-time, they may be entitled to monthly payments from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). While there are two types of CPP children’s benefits, the one that would apply to you is the disabled contributor’s child’s benefit: a monthly payment for a child of a person receiving a CPP disability benefit .


Disability benefits for veterans

If you have served in the Canadian military, you may be entitled to disability benefits for veterans. The veteran disability benefit is a tax-free, financial payment to support your well-being . The benefits you may be entitled to are dependent on a variety of factors, including whether your condition is the result of your service, its severity and impact on your life, and how long you served in the military.

Veterans Affairs Canada has an online benefits navigator which asks you questions about your situation and guides you to the benefits that you may be entitled to receive.

➔    Use the Veterans Canada benefits navigator

Eligibility requirements for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) disability benefits
Veterans Affair Canada (VAC) offers many services, including disability benefits.

If you qualify for a disability benefit, you will receive either the Pain and Suffering Compensation or a Disability pension.

How to apply for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) disability benefits
You can apply for the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) disability benefits online through your MyVAC account, or in person/by mail at any VAC office, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Transition Centre or Service Canada office. The application process will take some time. Make sure to take breaks as needed and ask for help from caregivers, friends or a family member.

Get help with your application

The staff at any Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) office or Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Transition Centre can assist you with your application. Service Officers with The Royal Canadian Legion or The War Amps of Canada can also assist you with your application, including helping you get all of the information you need to support your application. Their assistance is free of charge .

Review of your application

Once your application is submitted, you can use this wait time tool to give you an approximate estimate of how long it will take to review an application similar to yours.

Case management for veterans
Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) offers case management services to veterans transitioning back to civilian life. This can be an incredibly challenging transition, especially if you are also coping with a brain injury. Case management can be helpful for coping with navigating disability services, financial uncertainty, housing issues, stress, and social isolation .

If you are in the transition process, your transition interviewer may suggest case management. If you have already been discharged but think case management would be beneficial, you can contact the VAC. There is no application process. You will build a close relationship with your case manager as they help you identify goals, assist with planning services such as rehabilitation and doctors’ appointments, and frequently check your progress .

Related programs and information for veterans
Additional pain and suffering compensation
This program is for individuals with severe and permanent disabilities related to their service. It is granted based on an assessment.

Attendance allowance
If your brain injury requires you to have a caregiver on a daily basis, you may be eligible for the attendance allowance, which helps cover the costs of caregiving. The amount you receive is based on the level of care you need .

Clothing allowance
If you need custom-made clothing as a direct result of your injury (such as wearing a brace, splint or prosthetic), you may be eligible for a monthly clothing allowance.

Critical Injury Benefit
The Critical Injury Benefit is a program for sudden, single incidents (such as motor vehicle collisions/accidents and gunshots wounds) that lead to immediate, severe and traumatic injuries or illnesses . The program provides a tax-free sum to address the immediate impacts of the injury.

Exceptional Incapacity Allowance
This program is for people that are severely impacted by their disability, both in life and in finances. This allowance is awarded based on an assessment.

Financial advice program
If you have received a lump-sum from VAC, you can receive up to an additional $500 to get advice from a financial professional on how to manage the lump-sum.

Long-term care assistance
If you have been admitted to a long-term care facility and have a brain injury acquired through military service, you may be eligible for financial assistance.

Rehabilitation services
If your brain injury was acquired in relation to your military service, you may be eligible for rehabilitation services through Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

Treatment benefit
If you qualify for a disability benefit, you will be eligible for the VAC treatment benefit. The treatment benefit is a program that provides you with a VAC healthcare card which provides coverage for healthcare services such as hospitals, appointments with specialists (i.e. rehabilitation professionals, medical specialists and mental health providers), medical equipment, prosthetics and prescriptions .

Ill and Injured Support – Support our Troops

Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common challenges after a concussion. They can also be present after brain injury. They can be debilitating, frustrating, and be a long-term effect. It can be helpful to understand your headaches, the potential causes, and how to manage them.

Topics in this section include:


Causes of headaches

Headaches can be triggered by a variety of causes.

  • Damage to your brain or nerves
  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Medication
  • Pain due to neck or muscle
  • Fatigue/lack of sleep
  • Overstimulation

Diagnosing headaches

If you are experiencing any headaches after your brain injury, you should share this information with your doctor. These headaches could be related to other brain injury symptoms that may need medical attention [1].

To help keep track of your headaches, you can use this printable headache diary from the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. This headache diary will help doctors work with you to determine treatment by tracking the length, severity and time of your headaches as well as other important factors.

Types of headaches

Headaches come in a variety of types. While they are all true to their name, they can cause different effects.

Tension headaches
Tension headaches often feel like a tight, squeezing sensation that can last for long periods of time. They can cause mild to moderate levels of pain. They are the most common type of headaches for all adults and do occur often in people with brain injury. They are usually related to stress.
Migraine headaches
Migraines are severe and can be incredibly debilitating. Migraines may be one-sided (classic) or both sides (common) and are notable because they are more severe than other types of headaches. Migraines can also cause light and sound sensitivity and nausea/vomiting.

Migraines can make it harder to complete activities of daily living (ADLs), interfere with sleep, and impact overall health and wellbeing. While they can often be treated with over the counter headache medication, migraines may be long-term challenges for people with brain injury [2].

Cervical headaches
Cervical (or cervicogenic) headaches are caused by nerve damage in the neck, shoulders, or back of the head. These nerves are often connected to the head. Cervical headaches will commonly start in the neck, shoulders or back of the head and can be made worse when standing/sitting in certain positions [3].
Rebound headaches
Rebound headaches can happen as a result of headache medication. If you use the medication too frequently and then miss a dosage, or decrease your dosage, you may experience headaches (particularly if your medication has caffeine).

Doctors can answer any questions you may have about rebound headaches, as well as provide you with information about headache medication.

Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are short-term, painful headaches that gather behind one eye or one side of the head. While cluster headaches themselves don’t last long, there may be periods of time where cluster headaches happen frequently. Cluster headaches aren’t as common as other types of headaches.

Medication and medical treatment for headaches

If you require medication to help with your headaches, your doctor will prescribe preventative or rescue medication. Preventative medication keeps headaches from happening: doctors will perform an evaluation to determine whether this is something you need. Rescue medication helps when you already have a headache. Examples of these medications include triptans, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. They should not be used daily for extended periods of time as they will result in medication overuse headaches. Other rescue medications, such as opiates, should rarely if ever be used and only for short periods under the close supervision of a physician [4].

Any questions or concerns about medications for headaches should be brought to your doctor.

Tips for managing headaches (without medication)

There are steps you can take to prevent and manage headaches.

  • Apply a cold or hot pack to your neck or head [5]
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Complete deep breathing exercises
  • Do visualization or other mindfulness-based exercises
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Focus on improving your sleep
  • Get regular exercise
  • Go outside to get fresh air
  • Go to a quiet place, lie down or take a break from activities
  • Stretch and self-massage your head, neck, and shoulders

Resources

Please note: while these resources are designated for concussion recovery because headache is a common symptom of concussion, the tips may be applicable to those with moderate to severe traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury.


See sources


Disclaimer: There is no shortage of web-based online medical diagnostic tools, self-help or support groups, or sites that make unsubstantiated claims around diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Please note these sources may not be evidence-based, regulated or moderated properly and it is encouraged individuals seek advice and recommendations regarding diagnosis, treatment and symptom management from a regulated healthcare professional such as a physician or nurse practitioner. Individuals should be cautioned about sites that make any of the following statements or claims that:

  • The product or service promises a quick fix
  • Sound too good to be true
  • Are dramatic or sweeping and are not supported by reputable medical and scientific organizations.
  • Use of terminology such as “research is currently underway” or “preliminary research results” which indicate there is no current research.
  • The results or recommendations of product or treatment are based on a single or small number of case studies and has not been peer-reviewed by external experts
  • Use of testimonials from celebrities or previous clients/patients that are anecdotal and not evidence-based 

Always proceed with caution and with the advice of your medical team. 

Types of rehabilitation

Please note: not all of the therapies listed below are available publicly and may not be covered by insurance providers. This means that there may be out of pocket costs, depending on the type of therapy you do.

There are several types of rehabilitation that individuals with brain injuries may find helpful in their recovery. We have included the most common and recognized rehabilitation therapies. Different rehabilitation therapies will be recommended for different people. Not every rehabilitation therapy will be available in every area. Speak with your medical team about rehabilitations available to you, and ways you can access them. In some cases, there may be online rehabilitation services that can make getting support even easier.

You can also reach out to your local brain injury association about available public groups.

Occupational therapy
Occupational therapy (OT) assists with activities of daily living (ADLs) and creating a home environment that is designed for the person with a brain injury to be as independent as possible. This includes things like:

  • Cooking
  • Eating
  • Bathing
  • Cleaning
  • Getting dressed
  • Going to the bus stop

After a brain injury, these everyday activities can be more challenging. If you’re experiencing problems with your fine motor skills, having trouble with memory or processing instructions, or have issues with vision, hearing, or touch, occupational therapy will be a big help.

An occupational therapist will perform a functional assessment of you, your family, and your environment. They identify impairments and environmental barriers and create a treatment plan designed specifically for you. Part of the plan is developing specific goals you want to achieve, and using tools and strategies to help you do so. An occupational therapist helps you re-learn self-care, work, and leisure skills. This includes teaching you new ways to do things if your capabilities have changed. Their job is to help you with your ADLs, and help you reach a place where you can do them as independently as possible. They’ll do this using tools, new processes, and activities. They’ll even complete an assessment of your home environment so it can be set up in a way that works best for you. This includes making recommendations for furniture placement and how to remove tripping hazards and prevent further injuries.

Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy focuses on improving movement and mobility. This is done through carefully monitored stretching and exercises. This is one of the most common therapies – most people recovering from physical injuries need it. A physiotherapist is a rehabilitation professional who will perform an assessment of your physical capabilities and create a treatment plan to improve strength, muscle tone, or mobility. Exercises and activities can include range of motion exercises (ROM), strengthening exercises focused on building endurance and muscle, balance exercises which will target areas of deficit, and gait training to improve posture and walking.

Physiotherapy can be short or long-term. You may also be given activities or exercises that you have to do between appointments. As you meet physiotherapy goals, your abilities and needs will be reassessed, and your plan adapted to make sure you continue making positive progress.

Psychological therapy
Psychological therapy – which can also be called counselling – is an excellent way to take care of your mental health and understand more about your emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. It’s also a great way to unburden yourself and receive considerate, thoughtful feedback from a professional. Counselling can be done by either a psychiatrist or a psychologist – both are licensed mental health professionals. The main difference is that a psychiatrist has a medical degree and is able to prescribe medication.

The health professional providing the treatment will first complete an assessment to help identify what you need and what goals you would like to reach.

Speech and language therapy
Possible effects of brain injury include cognitive communication challenges. You may not be able to process your thoughts, have difficulty organizing your speech, or struggle with reading/writing. A speech language pathologist (SLP) can help with relearning communication skills and new adaptive techniques.

A person may also experience difficulty speaking or trouble swallowing. These challenges are connected to the throat and mouth muscles. Not only can it be difficult to talk, but it can be challenging to eat or drink, causing further problems with nutrition and safe eating. An SLP will perform tests in the early (acute care) stages of recovery if a person is experiencing any of these issues. It may be recommended that the person continue to work with a speech language pathologist to improve speaking and swallowing abilities. This can be a long process that requires patience, and treatment will be updated on an ongoing basis.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy is rehabilitation that focuses on creating programs and activities that will help you engage in positive and productive behaviour. Cognitive behavioural therapy covers a lot of symptoms of brain injury, including neural feedback, appropriate behaviour, memory, and information processing. Since no two brain injuries are the same, cognitive behavioural therapy doesn’t have a set program of exercises and activities. Your therapist will perform an initial assessment and set goals with you that you will then work towards. Once those goals are met, new goals will be set, and the treatment plan will evolve to include activities that will help you reach those goals.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is becoming more and more common, but it is still a growing part of rehabilitation for brain injury and is not as widely available as other types of rehabilitation.

Vocational rehabilitation therapy
It can be challenging after a brain injury to go back to a job. Depending on your injury, you might not be able to return to your former workplace or you may have to come up with new strategies to help you complete work-related tasks. Vocational rehabilitation therapy focuses on helping you prepare to re-enter the workforce. They give you the tools and skills needed to find a part-time or full-time position. In partnership with the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada, we have developed a guidebook to help you understand the return to work process.

Art therapy
Art therapy is a more experimental therapy. Patients complete art projects in a personalized program. When someone is working on a creative art project, it can stimulate multiple parts of the brain at the same time and encourage neural pathways to form. Art therapy can also improve fine motor skills, help with other cognitive challenges such as memory and attention, and improve mental health and moods. Art therapy is conducted by licensed art therapists and is normally an out-of-pocket expense.
Mindful meditation and yoga
Mindful meditation and yoga have become popular forms of therapy after brain injury. Both focus on the concept of quieting the mind, limiting outside distractions, and focusing on deep breathing and relaxing. Meditation can reduce stress and anxiety and allows for emotional self-check-ins and is a great technique for calming down.

Yoga also reduces stress and anxiety but adds an element of physical movement. Yoga moves are designed to be adapted and taken at the person’s pace. There are special classes and movements designed specifically for people who need adaptations.

Music therapy
Music therapy uses music to help people with functional goals, improve mental health and cognition, and promote self-awareness and reflection. Music can be used to help with speech problems through musical vocals, motor skills through instruments, and cognition through composing. Music therapists are licensed professionals who undergo several years of training. Music therapy is an out-of-pocket rehabilitation expense.

More information on music therapy

Recreational therapy
Recreational therapy uses leisure activities that a person would normally do to meet rehabilitation goals. The goal of this therapy is to help the person become as independent as possible when doing those activities. This could include walking, outdoor activities, arts and crafts, dancing – anything someone would normally do in their leisure time. Certified recreational therapists will use these activities to help with cognition, mental health, and even physical health if the activities are exercise-based.

Additional rehabilitation specialists

Depending on your rehabilitation needs, you may work with additional rehabilitation specialists who will help you with recovery. Please note: you may not need to work with every kind of rehabilitation specialist. Doctors will make recommendations and referrals based on your needs.

Audiologist
An audiologist is a healthcare professional with a focus in hearing loss related to the inner ear and vestibular system. They can diagnose and recommend treatment for people with brain injury who are experiencing hearing loss.
Behaviour therapist
A behavioural therapist is a professional that uses professional training to help people with behaviour challenges understand good vs. bad behaviour. The therapist will identify the problem behaviours, then outline a treatment plan based on what the person wants to achieve. While there are many different types of behavioural therapy, the therapist will help reinforce positive behaviours.
Case manager
A case manager is someone who can help you coordinate appointments and other daily activities after your brain injury, particularly if you are experiencing cognitive challenges that make planning and going to appointments difficult. They can also help you by going to appointments with you and assisting you with post-appointment activities.

Case managers are not available everywhere in Canada and may be an out-of-pocket expense. You should speak with your physician about available rehabilitation specialists in your area and what would be right for you.

Chiropractor
Chiropractors focus on treating neuromuscular (nerve and muscle) conditions by physically working on the person’s spine. Their focus is on improving muscle and skeletal structure and reducing pain in the back and related joints. Chiropractor services can be helpful for people with lingering pain from physical injuries.
Dietitian
A dietitian is a medical professional with a degree in nutrition science. They are able to understand how food impacts health and well-being, and work with individuals to create comprehensive diet plans that treat nutritional problems. Treating nutritional problems can aid in treating other conditions, such as brain injury.

Please note: There is a difference between a dietitian and nutritionist. Dietitian is a protected term in Canada, which means they need to have professional certification. Nutritionist is only a protected term in Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia. This means that someone may be a nutritionist in British Columbia but not have the same credentials as someone in Alberta. Dietitians of Canada has an explanation and a chart of protected titles by province/territory that can help you identify what kind of health professional to consult for dietary needs.

Ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT)
An ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) – officially called an otolaryngologist – is a doctor that specializes in the connected systems in the head. An ENT can diagnose and provide treatment recommendations for conditions such as hearing loss, tinnitus, sinus issues, balance problems, and swallowing difficulties.
Life care planner
A certified life care planner is someone who can help you create a plan after a life-altering event such as a brain injury. This plan can include services, supports, and costs necessary from that point on. A life care planner will perform an in-person assessment and develop a plan that will help map out future needs. This is incredibly helpful, especially if a person’s abilities to plan are compromised, or their family is worried about care, finances, and emergency planning for the future.
Life skills planner
A life skills planner is someone who is trained to teach other people how to develop and improve life skills. Life skills is a broad term used to describe any skills that are helpful in activities of daily living (ADLs). Examples of life skills include communication skills, interpersonal skills, decision-making, and taking care of a home.
Personal support worker
A personal support worker is someone who helps you with your activities of daily living (ADLs) and self-care, and is either with you full or part-time in your home or at a treatment centre. Their role is to help make your day-to-day routine more manageable.
Neurologist
A neurologist is a medical health professional that specializes in treating the nervous system, which includes the brain. A neurologist is one of the physicians that would be able to make a diagnosis of brain injury and address symptoms. They also help with management of brain injury and its symptoms through treatment and referrals to other treatment options.
Neuropsychologist
A neuropsychologist specializes in understanding how the brain and behaviours are linked. For someone with an acquired brain injury, a neuropsychologist can help determine how the injury will affect their cognitive abilities and behaviours and make recommendations for what rehabilitations could be helpful in your recovery.
Physiatrist
A physiatrist is someone who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. They can help a person with a brain injury by evaluating physical needs and making rehabilitation/treatment plans. The physiatrist can identify and make recommendations for treatment in relation to physical, cognitive or behaviours problems that can result from brain injury.
Recreational therapist
A recreational therapist is a professional that uses leisure and recreational activities as rehabilitation to build skills. The treatments are assessment-based and can be useful for people with social, cognitive, and behavioural challenges in developing independence and improving quality of life.
Respiratory therapist
A respiratory therapist is a professional that can assist with breathing difficulties. They work alongside doctors at hospitals to provide emergency respiratory care, or they can work in rehabilitation centres or at home to help people with ongoing breathing difficulties. Doctors will provide a recommendation if they think you need to see a respiratory therapist during rehabilitation.
Social worker
A social worker is a healthcare professional that provides ongoing support to the patient and the family by serving as an advocate and assisting with accessing services. They can also provide some levels of counselling. Their primary focus is improving overall well-being. A social worker can be a huge help for someone who is not sure where to find information or resources or needs someone to help support them while they look for services.