An Unhappy Triad: Brain Injury, Mental Illness and Addiction

An Unhappy Triad: Brain Injury, Mental Illness and Addiction


[MUSIC PLAYING] Not every client that comes in
there, but some clients come in, and they– we may
get a referral that says they have a brain injury. But it’s disclosed,
through the process, that they also
have an addiction. And we actually
have a program that deals with persons with
brain injury with addiction. And when that person
starts to work with them, they realize that, not only
do they have an addiction, but they have a
mental health problem. So as you start to
look at it, there seems to be a
process that happens that, when people
get a brain injury, if their life really
falls off the rails, they will turn to something
to put them in a happy place. And quite often,
a happy place is some form of drug or chemical. And that works for awhile,
but then the amount that they have to use escalates. So they get into that
whole addiction spiral. And eventually, they will
develop some form of a mental illness, whether it’s–
depression is usually– probably the most common one. And maybe they had a
tendency to have one of the mental illnesses before. Well, they’re more
likely to have it now because their inhibitions are
attenuated to a certain degree. So we’ll see some
clients that will come in with that– we call it
the “unhappy triad,” and you really can’t start
rehabilitating the brain injury until you get the
other layers off. So as one of my
colleagues at work says, you got to peel the
onion skin layers off. Probably the easiest one to
do is the addiction piece, and that’s hard. But you enroll them. You work with them. You work hard with them to get
them off the addiction piece, and that’s a long process. And meanwhile, they’re still
carrying the brain injury and the mental health problem. But if you can get
them to the point that they buy into rehab of
some sort or decreased harm, quite often– but not always–
the mental health issue goes away. Not always, but it’s
part and parcel. Right? If you can get that to the
point that those two seem to be under control, what
you have in front of you is a person with a brain
injury and you can now start to explore what they can do. But there’s no sense doing that
under the influence of drugs or whatever, and
there’s no sense trying to do it with a mental health. Right. In the ideal world, is it for
us to be working side-by-side with mental health? So when we do an intake
with our clients, we do an intake with a mental
health person and our worker in the same room
so that they don’t have to do the interview twice. And then the two people get
together, and say, yeah. There’s a brain injury here. But you know what? The mental health issue’s the
biggest problem right now. So maybe this person goes
to your service first, understanding they
will come back. Or maybe they’ll say, you know? That mental health
issue is not a– it’s not that big of a deal. The brain injury’s a problem. Good. Then we’re not referring
inappropriately back and forth and wasting time. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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