The mental health guidance available for support workers working in brain injury
Families are not the only ones who are close to someone with a life-changing injury. Support workers form a critical part of the network around someone living with a catastrophic injury and, as Dr Audrey Daisley – an Oxford-based Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist - says of her experience with brain injury survivors, “typically spend long periods of time working alongside the ABI survivor, often alone. They develop close relationships with the survivor and are party to some of the most intimate and private times in the life of the survivor”.
Unfortunately, from Dr Daisley’s experience, “when a client is experiencing mental health difficulties, that trusting, collaborative relationship [between support worker and the individual] can be challenged”. When working with the, often very complex, needs of someone living with an injury, any challenge to this working relationship could cause a ripple effect of issues.
Working well in brain injury – help for support workers
Dr Daisley, together with another Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr Rachel Tams, has developed a training package designed specifically for brain injury support workers called ‘Working well in brain injury’. This training brings together their expertise with that of case management experts CCMS, as well as experts from our own Compensation Protection Unit who specialise in ongoing care, to deliver guidance on and key tips.
The training includes tips on:
- keeping a record of any problems a brain injury survivor is experiencing;
- seeking help for the survivor;
- learning about the types of mental health problems which can commonly occur with brain injury, and the links these may have to other issues;
- developing listening skills, to help build trust;
- seeking advice from a treating team;
- focusing on the strengths and skills of a brain injury survivor;
- seeking supervision and support;
- practising self-care.
When considering all of these points, the last stands out the most as important for support workers. It can be very emotionally challenging when working with brain injury survivors, and hard not to take things personally or not to blame yourself when things get difficult. It is therefore vital that support workers understand techniques to look after their own mental health and wellbeing; taking the time to rest, relax and recharge when not on shift.
“Managing mental health problems that can arise in the context of ABI is one of the most challenging aspects of the role”, Dr Daisley says, “Mental health problems can be frightening to witness and to understand and support workers should receive training and ongoing supervision to help them navigate this aspect of the work.”
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