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Mental Health and ABI

Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are very common after brain injury, with some studies estimating rates for co-morbid psychiatric disorders in ABI as high as 44% (Hibbard et al., 1998; Scholten et al., 2016). Factors that may adversely influence the mental health of a person with brain injury can be seen at a number of levels:

  • Direct effects of brain injuries (eg. cognitive and motor disturbances, emotional disorders, increased impulsivity, depression, rigidity, hyperactivity) may precipitate mental health difficulties.
  • Longer-term implications of the effects of brain injury may result in profound personality changes, which might adversely influence mental health.
  • Changes in capabilities and competencies post injury may increase the likelihood of depression for people with ABI.  Suicide rates are higher among people with brain injuries than the general population.
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  • Brain injury is often a catastrophic, life-changing event for individuals and their families.  Many ABI survivors experience dramatic and permanent changes in work status, role, income, family life, support network, and quality of life. This may predispose them to significant depressive reactions and feelings of social isolation, helplessness and hopelessness.
  • Pre-injury social functioning, alcohol use, previous psychiatric problems and family history, all influence mental health.
Given the multiple  risk factors for people with brain injury, the provision of appropriately targeted and tailored mental health strategies is vital. However access to specialist psychiatric assessment and treatment is very difficult especially for people with traumatic brain injury. Mainstream psychiatric services don't have a high level of interest in TBI and many ABI services have limited scope for targeted psychiatric treatments especially in the context of behavioural challenges. Enhanced collaboration between mental health and ABI services would likely reduce long term mental health problems.

Mental health disorders in people with ABI can have a detrimental impact on a person's rehabilitation and quality of life (Gould et al., 2011). It is important that these conditions are treated effectively to enhance a persons recovery from ABI and  their overall quality of life.

Mental Health and ABI Resources

If you have an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) the following resources may assist you to:

  • Increase your understanding of mental health and ABI
  • Provide information for your family, friends or services that you are working with
  • Give you ideas for where you can go for further information, support or advice

ABIOS Resources:

Adjustment, Grief and Loss after Brain Injury (pdf, 289kb)

Anxiety and Brain Injury (pdf, 293kb)

Depression and Brain Injury (pdf, 293kb)

Depression and Suicide after Brain Injury (pdf, 338kb)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (pdf, 227kb)

Psychosis and Brain Injury (pdf, 280kb)

Relaxation after a Brain Injury (pdf, 409kb)

Other Resources:

Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Centre

Synapse has a number of fact sheets on Mental Health and ABI.

Beyondblue provides a national focus on depression its impact through the provision of information, resources and support. Their information line is Ph. 1300 22 4636

The WayAhead - Mental Health Association of NSW plays a vital role in the development of Mental Health initiative which increase community awareness and knowledge of Mental Health issues. They have a number of fact sheets and resources that can be downloaded for free and others that may be purchased.

All about Depression is a website that aims to provide accurate, current, and relevant information about clinical depression to the public. They also have a section dedicated to resources on relaxation that provides some online relaxation exercises including audio clips for download.

Community Wellness at MIT Medical also has a website with free downloads to assist people with issues in the areas of poor sleep, stress, relaxation and mindfulness.

Contact ABIOS

Last updated: 12 July 2022