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First study of its kind finds “unexpectedly high” rates of brain injury amongst veterans seeking help for mental health difficulties

New research published today has found the rate of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) amongst veterans seeking help for mental health conditions was unexpectedly high. In response, a pioneering new project will be launched to provide community-based support to veterans with brain injuries.

This is the first study in the UK to examine the rates of brain injury amongst help-seeking veterans. The research, conducted by the veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress and The Disabilities Trust Foundation assessed 123 participants who were recruited from referrals to Combat Stress over a six month period. They presented with complex mental health conditions, showing a high rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), alcoholism and depression.

The research team then explored the link between brain injury and mental health conditions, observing significant associations between reporting a brain injury and suffering from depression and problems with anger.

Dr Dominic Murphy, Research Lead at Combat Stress, commented:

"Our findings have revealed that help-seeking veterans have an unexpectedly high rate of brain injury, which could have significant implications for the treatment they should receive. It is vitally important veterans with mental health conditions are able to access the right support in their communities so we are looking forward to working in partnership with The Disabilities Trust Foundation to roll out the Linkworker Service, which will be tailored to meet the needs of veterans with brain injuries.”

These findings have paved the way for Combat Stress and The Disabilities Trust Foundation to launch this month a project that will provide community-based support services to veterans with brain injuries.

The project will join up veterans with local services, such as housing and welfare, and develop personalised support programmes to support their brain injury needs. Building on the Foundation’s successful Linkworker programme for prisoners and homeless people with brain injuries, the new project will champion improved treatment for veterans by increasing awareness about brain injury amongst medical professionals.

Deborah Fortescue, Head of Foundation at The Disabilities Trust commented:

Our research indicates a significant rate of brain injury within this specific veteran community. As a result of these findings, we are keen to design and deliver specialist support to meet the needs of veterans with brain injury to ensure access to the right services at the right time. We are therefore delighted to be working with Combat Stress to deliver a specialist brain injury linkworker service for veterans.”

The Disabilities Trust is a leading national charity, providing innovative care, rehabilitation and support for people with complex physical impairments, acquired brain injury and learning disabilities as well as children and adults with autism. Its services across the country include independent hospitals, purpose-built residential centres, accommodation-based and own-home support and special education to maximise each individual’s independence.

The Disabilities Trust Foundation enables the Trust to share its expertise and knowledge through research and the piloting of new ideas. The Foundation’s project work, including brain injury linkworker services, is designed to initiate and enhance good practice and direct or influence policy within the areas of brain injury, learning disabilities, autism and physical disabilities.

Watch Dr Mike Oddy discuss the 'significant associations' between brain injury and mental health difficulties amongst veterans.