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Published On: February 6, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

Psychiatric injury – removing the stigma

When someone has been involved in a major accident and has suffered serious, potentially life-changing injuries, there will inevitably also be an element of psychiatric injury and in many cases, this can be significant. Psychiatric injury and symptomology is far better understood now than it was say 20 years ago, but there is no doubt that there can still be a stigma attached to it, with some clients seeing the admission of suffering psychiatric symptoms as a sign of weakness, this historically being particularly prevalent among male clients.

There can be many reasons for the onset of psychiatric symptoms following an accident, which can range from daily physical pain and discomfort and all of the day to day limitations and restrictions that this brings with it, to being housebound and going “stir crazy” within the confines of the same four walls day in, day out, to not being able to work and provide for your family. For some time now, it has been well acknowledged that, in the cases of more serious injuries, multidisciplinary treatment programmes are vital to expedite an injured person’s recovery, as there is clearly a significant overlap between physical symptoms and psychological symptoms, with each impacting on the other. The more a person is in pain, the worse their mental health and the worse their mental health, the worse their perception of their pain. It is a vicious cycle and one which can only be broken with a targeted approach to rehabilitation.

This is a particular issue in cases involving brain injury. Some of the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be very subtle and not immediately noticeable and these can, in turn, often feed into psychiatric symptomology. If not picked up on early on in the rehabilitation process, this can adversely impact on the injured person’s overall condition and prove to be a real barrier to recovery. It is for this reason that our team at Anthony Gold push aggressively for insurers to fund private rehabilitation right at the outset of every claim that we deal with, as we recognise and understand the importance of early intervention.

It has been determined that 65% of people who have suffered a TBI have subsequently been diagnosed with at least one psychiatric disorder. Treatment for psychiatric injury following a TBI would fall under the remit of neuropsychiatry or neuropsychology, as the treatment has to target both the psychological impact and the brain injury itself. With treatment options having developed significantly over recent years, there are now many more options available to clients than there ever used to be.

However, we also have to consider the impact that our injured client’s condition and symptoms are having on their family. It is often those closest to us who, other than the injured party, suffer the most in these situations and in cases where there are children in the family home, the situation becomes even more complex and sensitive. The ethos here is that when one part of an emotionally connected system is affected, so is the rest of that system and as such, it is not just the brain-injured and/or psychologically affected person who is impacted. This creates yet another vicious cycle, whereby the mental state of the injured party impacts directly on the mental state of their family, who are their main source of care and support following a serious accident but whose own mental health is adversely affected, which in turn affects their ability to provide that much needed care and support.

When we add to this the lack of understanding on the part of the wider family of the effects of a TBI, this further compounds the problem. In all likelihood, the family will have no experience of being around a person with the sort of cognitive and functional difficulties a person who has suffered a TBI will have, let alone what care, assistance and support they require from them. There might be behavioural changes which impact significantly on family relationships and dynamics and where there is little to no knowledge or understanding of why this is, this can sometimes lead to a breakdown in those relationships. We have seen families torn apart by the physical, psychological and neuropsychological effects of an accident on some of our clients and it is vital to have the tools in place as early on in the claims process as possible to try and prevent this from happening.

This takes us back, however, to the stigma that is attached to these sorts of problems and for there to be any chance of the injured person making any sort of a recovery, it is crucial that they are open to seeking help for their condition and fully engaging with the therapy that is provided to them. If they do not go into the therapy with an open mind and a willingness to engage, the treatment is far less likely to be successful. This is the main barrier that needs to be broken down as early on in the process as possible.

We will often have clients who see an admission that they need psychological help as some sort of indication that they are not able to look after and care for their own family. Speaking to the partners of these clients, I am often told that they feel that their partner is now someone they no longer recognise and it has become more and more common to now have to seek funding for therapy for family members in addition to our clients. In some cases, this even extends to arranging therapy for the children.

Our job as solicitors for seriously injured clients therefore extends way beyond simply securing a settlement. We are also accompanying them on very long journeys of rehabilitation and it is our job to facilitate that rehabilitation and get as much help for our clients and their families as we possibly can.

Anthony Gold are specialists in claims for clients who have suffered brain injuries and other life-changing injuries. If you have suffered an accident and would like some advice on making a claim, please contact us on 020 7940 4000, email us at mail@anthonygold.co.uk or complete an online contact form which can be found on our website.

* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*

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