Brain Injury, Homelessness & Mental Health

Posted on August 22, 2022

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is the leading disabler and killer for individuals under 40. 

Common ABI symptoms include memory loss, mental health issues, chronic pain and fatigue, communication issues, loss of inhibition, decreased problem-solving skills, and impulsivity – increase a person’s risk of becoming homeless. 

45% of homeless men experienced a brain injury, and 87% of those injuries happened before the individual became homeless. 53% of homeless grownups with a history of mental disorders have a reported history of brain injury.

A study found that 58% of homeless men and 42% of homeless women in Toronto have a brain injury, and the average age of the first brain injury was 17.

This population is at risk of suffering seizures, mental health problems, and poorer physical health.

Surviving a brain injury and being homeless damages a person’s wellbeing, and thus this population is:

  • Five times more probable to have visited an emergency room in the past year
  • Twice at risk of having been under arrest in the previous year
  • Three times as likely to have been the target of a physical assault in the past year

This population is more likely to:

  • Report unmet health care needs
  • Have contact with the criminal justice system
  • Be suicidal or have previously attempted suicide
  • Use emergency departments

Finding a stable living place for people with mental illness and head injuries is crucial to helping them with their treatment.

Domestic Violence & Brain Injury 

  • 92% of women living in domestic violence housings stated their partners hit them in the head more than once.
  • There are over 20 million undiagnosed TBI cases in U.S. women. 

Brain injury is common in domestic violence victims. Still, many of these people refuse to speak out or ask for help, preventing them from receiving the treatment they need.

Stop Domestic Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major social issue. It is a chief cause of non-fatal injury experienced by women globally. Women are more at risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury from their intimate partners than anyone else. Occurrence rates of possible brain injuries in women survivors of IPV range from 19 to 100%, depending on sample characteristics.

The head, face, and neck are the most usual sites of injury in IPV, with up to 92% of IPV episodes involving hits to the head and face and strangulation. Such attacks can result in brain injury, and they often do.

Most of these incidents include physical assaults such as hitting, pushing, and choking (77%), and most of the physical assaults target women (76%). These numbers are underestimates due to the sensitive nature of reporting mistreatment by a partner. In fact, it is stated that less than one-third of women reveal incidents of IPV.

Intimate partner violence is categorized by a repeated pattern of abuse over time. It is rarely an isolated event. As a result, women are at grim risk of permanent disability caused by repeated injury to the brain if they are hit or strangulated on a regular basis. Because survivors are often oblivious, they are at risk of brain injury and are not likely to seek care. 

It is estimated that up to 75% of women do not take medical assistance for suspected brain injury. Survivors and care workers can also mistake brain injury symptoms for the emotional distress brought about by the abuse itself. 

Brain injury has been stated as a silent epidemic, and this is especially true for women survivors of IPV. It is difficult and impossible sometimes to see the injury with the naked eye. Considering the connection between IPV and TBI is essential. This awareness will help frontline workers meet the specific needs of clients who may have sustained a brain injury and make sure they receive appropriate care.