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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



When raising awareness becomes TBI victim blaming

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There is still a lot of misunderstanding about traumatic brain injury and the long term effects. One area which is starting to be better appreciated is concussions in sports. In a number of sports it has become protocol to take a player off the field the moment a concussion is suspected to minimise the damage and maximise recovery. This is an important culture charge and I hope that improvements in attitudes and treatments continues in this vain. Thankfully, I have yet to see people blame a sports person for a TBI they sustained whilst competing in a sport. It seems to be accepted, and rightly so, that these injuries are an unfortunate accident that the sporting authorities need to do everything within their power to try to prevent. When a TBI does happen to a player they must get the support they need and everyone else needs to analyse if there is anything that can be done differently to minimise the risk of it happening again. 

However, the same can’t always the said for other causes of a TBI.

As someone who sustained a severe brain injury in a car accident, I always find I feel I need to clarify that the accident wasn’t my fault. Part of me assumed that this was my own hidden prejudice and/or ego that lead me to do this. But on national alcohol screening day, (I think this only happens in America, it’s certainly not a thing here in the UK) a prominent Not-for-profit put out a post on social media which validated my need to defend myself.

We already struggle with people under estimating how our invisible disability effects we, especially since we can have days when we APPEAR to be doing well. This can lead people to think that we play up to it or use it as an excuse when it suits us. The last thing we need is for them to be given another reason to withhold compassion.

I’m not going to name the Not-for-profit involved as I have no doubt that they do important work for many survivors and I do not want them to be trolled for this oversight. I already told them how their wording made it sound like TBI survivors caused their own circumstances, although I’m not sure they quite accepted that they could have worded it better. 

“30% – 50% people treated for TBI who were under the influence of alcohol at the time of injury” is what they chose to post, with no other context. Firstly, if we get past the bad grammar and badly constructed sentence, they appear to be saying that a lot of us were drunk when we sustained our brain injury. They give no indication as to where they get their figures from. I’m confident that not everyone who sustains a TBI is screened for alcohol, this would only be relevant for drivers if the police are looking to see if they need to prosecute for driving under the influence. Anyone who had an accident at home, for example, wouldn’t need to be screened for alcohol. Even those who were assaulted whilst out drinking this post represents unfairly. They are the victim, but by focusing on their alcohol consumption makes it sound like they got what they deserved. Only after I challenged them for victim shaming did they clarify that they were referring to driving under the influence, but anyone who was just scrolling through their social media feed probably wouldn’t have seen this.

When you are acting as an authority on your subject you have an increased responsibility to be clear and accurate.

This organisation wants to do what they can the prevent brain injuries wherever possible, and I support that wholeheartedly. Drink driving is a very dangerous thing to do and too many lives are lost or forever changed as a result of it. Therefore, anything that we can do to convince people not to do it, the better. Particularly since it’s not just the individual who is at risk. Both passengers, other motorists and pedestrians are put in grave danger every time  someone gets behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. This is why this badly worded post upsets me so much. They are many brain injury survivors who sustained their life changing injury as a result of SOMEONE ELSE’S drink driving. They are the victim, but this post could make people assume it was their fault through the perceived choice to drive whilst under the influence. We already struggle with people who underestimate haw our invisible disability effects us. They can accuse us of “playing up to it” or using it as an excuse “when it suits us”. This kind of badly thought out post can give people just another reason to condone showing us a compassionless attitude.

I want to implore anyone who is working as an authority on brain injury to double check any posts they put out like this. Double, triple check it. Ask someone else what they take from the post and what they think it is trying to say. It’s not uncommon for us to not realise that, without context, people can read our message differently from how we intended it. Make sure you are helping to raise understanding as well as awareness, and not adding to the discrimination and misunderstanding we feel everyday.

Other articles you may like:

Do you think organisations need to be careful on social media to avoid posting updates which don’t serve our brain injury community?


8 replies on “When raising awareness becomes TBI victim blaming”

Your point is well-taken. And not just organizations and not just about TBI. It’s a pet peeve of mine when writers present this or that as causes for such-and-such. It makes it sound as if they are responsible for their own invisible disabilities. And, even if they did cause it, how in the world does blaming help in their adjustments? And blame gives some onlookers an excuse not to care. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this!

Thanks Carole, yes you’re right, no good ever comes from blaming an individual for their disabilities. Of course we need to do all we can to protect others from having such accidents, but be sensitive to those who have already been through it.

Such a good point, Michelle. Even if not what they intended to mean, it comes across as, ‘well, they caused it themselves.’ And to many people, 30 – 50% translates as 100%.

People with a chronic illness don’t need that extra judgment. They have enough to deal with. It’s a bit like saying 50% of people on disability are claiming fraudulently, 50% of disabled people are just fat and lazy or 50% of chronic pain patients are drug addicts.

The statisctics are way off, but people believe them and, as I said, they don’t even see 50% – they all 100%.

Yes I do think it just gives more reason for bad feelings to grow between the abled community and disabled community. We need to encourage more understanding and compassion rather than throwing out these ideas which make that divide get bigger.

People are always telling me not ramble, not take forever to share a story, some family members are rude and have no understanding of how difficult it is to live with a brain injury. I’m so sick of being disrespected. For example, how do you respond to someone who tells you to shut up, don’t bother listening to me and ignore me when I have something I would like to share or show to someone and they always say “not now”. I’m getting so frustrated and am sick of being treated like an idiot.

Manners cost nothing and nor does kindness. They shouldn’t make you feel this way and I’m sorry that you’re being disrespected like this. I know that sometimes we can get our timing wrong, or have a lack of filter so we say things without any tact, but that’s when they can help us. If they explain what we just did it can help us to regain those skills. But just saying “shut up” is rude, unhelpful and devalues you.

My situation is a bit different but I definitely relate. I struggled with blaming myself for my stroke even though the chances of it happening were 1 in a million. But I felt it was my fault for not getting my Colitis symptoms checked out earlier (I got them checked out the week before) or not going off birth control, like these were things I was in control of and didn’t do anything about them or I didn’t go to the ER with my headache but who goes to the ER with a headache?

Please don’t blame yourself Kealee. Particularly when you live with a chronic illness you get used to just getting on with it and doing your best not to make a fuss. I think most people in your situation would have done the same thing.

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