In an instant, a blow to the head, a serious illness, or a stroke can change someone’s life forever.

Brain injuries are the leading killer and disabler of people under the age of 44. They’re 15 times more common than spinal cord injuries and 30 times more common than breast cancer. Over a half of a million people living in Ontario have a brain injury and 45,000 more will be added to this number this year alone.

While typically associated with sports injuries and auto accidents, brain injuries are prevalent yet under-addressed in other segments of society. About 53 percent of Toronto’s homeless population have experienced a brain injury, and for 70 percent of these individuals, their first traumatic brain injury occurred before becoming homeless.

Women facing domestic violence also sustain concussions and other types of brain injuries, however they tend to be overlooked during hospital emergency room visits where the emphasis is on treating visible injuries like fractures and bleeding.

An invisible disability

Often termed the invisible disability, many people with brain injuries don’t walk with uneven gaits, require wheelchairs, or slur their speech. As a result, few get the help they need to deal with the myriad cognitive deficits associated with brain injury including impaired memory, concentration, learning, and judgment or extreme fatigue, depression, and anxiety.

Organizations like the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) and the Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) are working to raise public awareness of just how common brain injuries are — including for victims of homelessness and survivors of domestic violence — and to  let people living with these injuries and their loved ones know there is help and hope for them.

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