March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.
During his second deployment in Iraq in 2009, Bill “Big Sarge” Hansen’s convoy struck an improvised explosive device. The explosion led to an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury that would later upend his life.
The IED incident was one of eight concussive injuries Hansen experienced during active duty. After two decades of service, he found himself struggling with memory loss, migraines, cognition changes, chronic pain, and a lethargic, sedentary lifestyle that caused him to gain 100 pounds.
Hansen was uncharacteristically angry and impatient with his family. It was only after his daughter came to him and said, “Dad, something’s the matter. You’re not acting like dad anymore,” that he fully realized how far he had fallen from the father and active, motivated guy he used to be. His child’s anguish convinced him he needed his own mission: Be daddy again.
Though the way forward was long and difficult, he began competing in Tough Mudder competitions and mentoring for the Wounded Warrior Project. He still lives with the effects of TBI and posttraumatic stress disorder, but says he now has ways to cope, and he’s more fully engaged with his children:
“I remind myself that I will never be perfect, but I need to just keep moving in a positive way forward.”
Hansen’s story is both unique and familiar. TBI has been called the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 350,000 U.S. Service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. This has led to calls for increased attention and funding for those suffering from symptoms of TBI and PTSD.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program’s Center for Excellence has teamed with the Penn State Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness to provide our military families with high-quality resources that have been reviewed and are considered to be the best of their kind. All resources listed below are free to use. The best mission you or a loved one with TBI can employ, is to seek help.
TBI The Journey Home
Find information about TBI symptoms, treatment, and recovery for mild to severe TBI. Learn about and explore the brain to better understand how the brain operates and the implications of a TBI on the brain. There are resources for caregivers too. The resource center includes videos, guides, journal templates, and checklists.
BrainlineMilitary is an arm of Brainline.org that provides military specific information and resources to veterans, Service members, families, and providers. The site explores topics related to TBI symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and living with TBI through video, webcasts, articles and personal stories.
Brain Injury Center
DVBIC’s mission is to serve Service members and veterans with traumatic brain injury through state-of-the-science clinical care, innovative clinical research initiatives and educational programs, and support for force health protection services. Its website contains information about signs and symptoms of TBI, along with a blog, webinars, and a podcast. Service members, caregivers, and medical providers can all find information here.
Follow the About Face awareness campaign. Hear the stories of other Veterans who have suffered from PTSD and learn about their treatment experiences.
Afterdeployment.org provides interactive tools including, assessments, stories and resources on PTSD and other wellness topics. Identify your stress and triggers by completing the post-traumatic stress workbook. This site also includes a hotline and live chat feature that you can access at anytime.
VA National Center for PTSD & PTSD Coach
The Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD offers a public and a professional track for audiences visiting the site. The public side consists of videos about understanding PTSD, interactive modules, and guides on reintegration. For providers there is a series entitled PTSD 101. This includes a set of online modules offering general PTSD foundational courses and courses in assessing and course of treatment for PTSD. The National Center for PTSD in conjunction with the National Center for Telehealth have developed an application, PTSD Coach, that can help you learn about PTSD and manage your symptoms. PTSD Coach also offers an assessment to track your symptoms. Upload your favorite music, pictures, and contacts for use in the exercises that help you manage these symptoms.