Approximately 1.5 million Canadians are living with an acquired brain injury – and that doesn’t include concussions, military injuries, or unreported brain injuries. Brain injury also does not just impact the individual: it impacts families and friends. This means that millions of Canadians are coping with the effects of brain injury every day.
Brain injury is 30 times more prevalent than breast cancer, 44 times more prevalent than spinal cord injury, and 400 times more prevalent than HIV/AIDS. Yet very few people understand how common and how underserved brain injury is in communities across the country.
This past spring, Brain Injury Canada circulated a survey through brain injury associations, social media and our partners to find out what are the top issues for those living with brain injury.
The results speak for themselves. Approximately 62% of participants identified lack of awareness about brain injury in the general population as their top issue. 58.5% of participants indicated that the need for mental health supports and the cost of care (primarily the issue of limited publicly funded coverage and inadequate or no insurance coverage) were the next two most important issues.
“I need help – even if it doesn’t look like it.”
– Anonymous survey participant
The results of this survey highlighted that we as a country are not doing a good job of educating the public about brain injury or supporting the individuals and families who are experiencing it.
It is time this community comes together as a singular voice to advocate for the needs of those living with brain injury. We need all levels of Government to come together to support the development of a brain injury strategy. This strategy would include, but is not limited to:
- Designated funding for a national awareness and education initiative on brain injury, including the prevalence; the everyday experience of those with lived experience presented in their voices; an emphasis on improving public attitudes and protecting the rights of those with brain injury to promote better understanding; and a focus on inclusion and elimination of barriers, both environmental and societal.
- Support for brain injury associations to develop and provide enhanced and integrated mental health resources specific to individuals and families living with brain injury.
- Coordinated and equitable access to individualized delivery of health and social care services across the life span.
- Empowering individuals and families to identify their health needs, participate in the planning and delivery of services and play an active role in maintaining their own health and well-being.
“Healing happens with adequate funding and access to proper care systems.”
– Anonymous survey participant
Elected representatives at all levels need to hear these voices of brain injury and listen. With funding and access to mental health and recovery supports, more individuals with brain injury and their families will be able to return to work; avoid poverty, the criminal justice system, and homelessness; engage daily with fewer barriers; and become integral members of their community. They will no longer be left behind, ignored, or forgotten – they will be seen, understood and respected.
You can demonstrate your support by adding your signature to this open letter. Once the 44th Parliament sits later this year, we will be sending this letter, along with the list of nation-wide supporters to the Prime Minister; the Minister of Health; the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion; and the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. We will also provide copies for brain injury associations to send to their provincial and municipal representatives.
Join us in this call to action and help the voices of those with brain injury be heard.