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NEWS | March 17, 2014

March marks Brain Injury Awareness Month

By Airman 1st Class Devin Scott Michaels 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In the next minute, three Americans will experience traumatic brain injuries that likely could have been avoided, according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000, more than 294,000 U.S. Service members have suffered brain injuries due to mishaps in the field and accidents at home.

This March, members of the Joint Base Langley-Eustis community bring TBIs to the public's attention with the goal of preventing more from occurring by observing Brain Injury Awareness Month.

In recent years, U.S. military leaders have taken an aggressive approach in combatting TBIs. In an effort to aid victims, the military established the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and other programs to treat TBIs and study the psychological health effects.

Zoe Whitaker, McDonald Army Health Center mTBI nurse case manager, said there are protocols in place which identify mandatory events that could result in someone sustaining an mTBI. If someone experiences one of these events, they should seek care as soon as possible. There are concussion centers in deployed areas for evaluation and treatment which aid Service members in recovery.

"Service members who come back from a deployment may have experienced harmful events, but are trying to ignore or hide their symptoms and are really hurting inside," said Whitaker. "We want to help them realize there are places they get help."

Despite this, Whitaker said seeking treatment sometimes requires wingmanship or the "battle buddy" concept.

"When TBIs occur, it's very important to get the victim in the hands of medical personnel," said Whitaker. "The victim might not think clearly or fully remember the event, so a battle buddy should escort that person to receive care."

Service members are seeking treatment more often than before.

"The culture is changing, particularly when it comes to behavioral health, because people realize there is no shame is seeking help," said Whitaker. "It's equivalent to seeking help for a broken foot or wrist. Behavioral health clinics are about figuring out what is wrong and fixing it."

In addition to promoting treatment, Brain Injury Awareness Month also emphasizes understanding TBIs can happen without foresight, even though they are preventable, to an extent.

"TBIs can occur anytime, anywhere and to anyone," said Whitaker, "However, people can often reduce the chance of a TBI by using basic safety precautions such as using a seatbelt, having someone hold a ladder and wearing safety gear." 

People recover from mTBI within days to weeks. However, The JBLE Behavioral Health Clinics are here to help, dedicated to supporting those who have suffered due to accidents in the field or at home.

For more information or to seek treatment for a TBI, contact the Fort Eustis Behavioral Health Clinic at 314-7558 or the Langley Air Force Base Behavioral Health Clinic at 764-6840.