The stigma of a brain injury can be reduced with personal contact.
Traumatic brain injury can often result in "invisible" side effects such as memory and attention problems, mood changes, or fatigue. Past research has shown that people who have a visible scar as "evidence" of a brain injury are less likely to experience feelings of social anxiety and misunderstandings than people without a visible scar.
Adolescents who experience a brain injury are particularly vulnerable to the stigma of their injury and may experience even more social anxiety as a result. A recent study of educational interventions for adolescent attitudes towards people with a brain injury was conducted, in which participants had:
- Direct contact with an injured person with a visible injury,
- Direct contact with a person without a visible injury, or
- No direct contact with the injured person at all.
Researchers found that simply putting other people in direct personal contact with a person who had a brain injury was much more effective at reducing their feelings of social stigma than having a visible injury. This study underlines the importance of brain injury education to the community. Improving education efforts by providing direct contact with people who have experienced a brain injury may be effective not only at reducing stigma and social anxiety, but also in community reintegration and social inclusion efforts.
Irwin LG & Fortune DG. Schools-based interventions for reducing stigmatization of acquired brain injury: The role of interpersonal contact and visible impairment. Archives of Clinical Neuropscyhology. (March 2014).