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Support groups help brain injury recovery

After sustaining the injury, after hospitalization, after acute care and following post-acute rehabilitation (if available), brain injury survivors, their family members, caregivers and friends often find themselves asking - now what?

Where do we go from here? How do we do this? Where are the resources? Who understands THIS and ME? Now that we are home, who can I call? This is overwhelming!

We at the BIAMS and our support groups understand. THE BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATION OF MISSISSIPPI SUPPORT GROUPS bring brain injury survivors, their family members/caregivers and expert speakers together in one place to help the healing process. Prior to COVID-19, we had two active support groups - the Jackson Area Support Group and the Hattiesburg Area Support Group. Due to restrictions starting in March 2020, and for the safety of our survivors and family members, we began the BIAMS Virtual Support Group for survivors, family members and caregivers from all over the state. Currently, we host Zoom Support Group Meetings every other Monday at 6:00pm and welcome all survivors and caregivers to join. Please email lmoss@msbraininjury.org if you'd like an invitation to the next meeting. We hope to be back meeting in Jackson and Hattiesburg soon! We are also looking for facilitators to restart the Gulf Coast Area Support Group so please let us know if you're interested. For meeting information, please click here: BIAMS SUPPORT GROUPS

Below are a few (of the many) ways Brain Injury Support Groups help survivors - information written by brain injury survivors - original Article by Mia Garchitorena in Everyday Health

1. Support Groups Help People Feel Less Isolated

Many people with brain injuries often feel alone when it comes to living with newfound symptoms, which can range from issues with cognition to physical disabilities. Some survivors do not have family or community support. Whether they are a new survivor or someone who has lived with a brain injury for years, they often feel isolated, frustrated and/or confused about their symptoms. Joining a support group can help survivors and their families, friends and caregivers gain valuable knowledge and learn about available resources from other group members. Support groups also provide a sense of community and identity for survivors who have struggled with their brain injuries and provide adaptive recreational and social activities tailored toward brain injury survivors' special requirements.

2. Support Groups Provide Practical Knowledge, Resources, and Networking

Survivors and caregivers are able to gain a wealth of practical and medical knowledge and become familiar with available resources from other survivors who may have been living with a brain injury for a longer period of time including what works, what doesn't/didn't work, new "work around" skills to try, new rehabilitation opportunities and groups within local areas. Support groups allow people with brain injuries to see that there is a large community of survivors who've had similar experiences.

3. Support Groups May Answer Questions That Other's Can’t

Support groups provide a safe haven for survivors to ask questions about their symptoms and care without fear of being criticized or dismissed. When their own communities and even some healthcare professionals are dismissive, support groups offer an "understanding ear", compassionate care and empathy that is so important. Many times expert speakers are brought in by Brain Injury Associations to help survivors navigate the complicated world of managed care and legal concerns, and they also hear top neuro-related professionals discuss hopeful new treatments for survivors.

4. Support Groups Provide Comfort for Families and Caregivers

Caregivers can often experience great emotional and psychological tolls when caring for someone with a brain injury. Families must learn to adjust to having a spouse, sibling, or child who could have a completely different personality. Family members sometimes have to learn to love a "new person" and say goodbye to the person they knew before the injury. Full-time caregivers often struggle with behavioral changes that may come with brain injuries, such as mood swings, cognitive deficiencies, memory issues or public outbursts. Most brain injury survivors and families also face added financial burdens when caring for someone with a brain injury who can no longer care for themselves, or who cannot work at the same level as before, especially if the survivor was the household’s main breadwinner.

5. Support Groups Help Survivors Regain a Sense of Identity

Many brain injury survivors struggle with loss - loss of their former identity. Old skill sets, friends, jobs, home life, social life, mobility, and personality are often different than before. Some temporarily, and some permanently. Grief and loss is as individual as the brain injury itself and should be treated as such. Brain injury support groups know this intimately and help survivors grieve their losses and celebrate their successes - baby steps at a time! Just knowing that a group "has your back", understands "where you are" and "where you want to be" AND is a phone call away provides hope, healing and unconditional acceptance... one step at a time, like nowhere else!

"Brain injury can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Brain injury is not an event or outcome. It is the start of a misdiagnosed, misunderstood, underfunded neurological disease" ~ The Brain Injury Association of America

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