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The Headway helpline: You're not alone

The Headway helpline: You're not alone

"I felt lucky to pick up the phone and hear a comforting voice at the other end of the line."

Headway’s free, confidential helpline is available to anyone with a question about brain injury - from survivors and carers to students and professionals.

Run by a team of nurses with expertise in supporting people affected by brain injury, the helpline is a vital source of information and support. The service is constantly expanding and last year answered a record 11,216 calls.

Brain injury survivor Doctor Veronica Woods (whose name has been changed for anonymity) and her husband called the
helpline in 2012 when they began to struggle with the impact her injury was having on their lives.

Veronica said: “Recovering from the brain haemorrhage was hard work. I was terrified.

I couldn’t walk or do anything by myself anymore.

“The effects of my injury caused a lot of disruption to my family and I felt like no one understood – but then we found

“My husband and I both called the helpline and they gave us strategies to help cope with everything going on.

“They understood immediately what we were going though and recommended counselling for the family.

I felt lucky to pick up the phone and hear a comforting voice at the other end of the line. I was so pleased my husband found Headway too – I don’t know where we’d be without that support.
Veronica Woods

Dr Veronica Woods

Mum-of-two, Tracey Cox, called the helpline while she was recovering from surgery to treat an aneurysm.

Tracey said: “Headway’s helpline was a real saving grace for me during my recovery and even still to this day. The nurse on the line made me feel understood and always put my mind at ease. It was great to hear a friendly voice at the other end of the phone.”

People contact the Headway helpline with a variety of questions or to discuss issues they need help with, such as the effects of brain injury or any social and practical issues they are facing.

Over the past five years we have seen an 87.5% increase in the number of people calling in relation to problems with their benefits.

Julie Gaskin, the helpline’s manager, said: “There is no standard helpline call – in the complex field of brain injury it is rare that people’s situations are alike.

“Most often people have little or no knowledge of brain injury, or of the services that are available to help them before they contact us. Many of our calls are from people who need a listening ear, they may be having a difficult day or have a question and they don’t know who else to ask.

“For many, we are the first person that has understood, listened and explained their injury to them.

“Being part of the helpline team can be emotional and complex, but ultimately it is very rewarding to know you have made a difference to a someone’s day.”

Due to the quick response, good information and kindness they provided, I feel much less isolated and hopeful that my relative will make a good recovery. Can’t thank them enough.

Get in touch

You can contact our helpline on 0808 800 2244 or The service is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.  

Pay for a Day and support our helpline

Headway’s Pay for a Day scheme is a great way to mark a special date in the calendar while making a difference to people living with the effects of brain injury.

You can fund a full day’s running costs for just £558 to mark special dates such as Christmas, Ramadan, Diwali and Hanukkah.

In return you will receive a personalised, environmentally friendly e-card to share with your network in lieu of your cards, as well as a thank you on our popular Twitter page - what a fantastic way to show your support for Headway!

For further details please contact us on

Helpline FAQs

Here we answer some of the helpline’s most frequently asked questions, focusing in this edition on COVID-19.

Am I more at risk of catching COVID-19?

Brain injury has not been listed by the NHS as one of the conditions that make an individual more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Despite this, it is entirely possible that a brain injury survivor may happen to also fall under one of the groups that are at
increased risk.

These include people over 70, people who are pregnant and those with certain underlying health conditions. If you need more detail about this, you can visit the NHS website at

There has been a change to my normal routine and I’m not sure how to cope.

Unprecedented situations such as the recent outbreak of coronavirus, which has seen the nation being asked to stay indoors and many services closing, can bring immense disruption to the set routines that many brain injury survivors rely on.

Survivors who are unsettled with this change should, where possible, try to find alternative ways of keeping their routine.

For instance, if you attended a Headway group on a certain day of the week, use that time to call a friend to talk instead so that you are still socialising, just in a different way.

Try to maintain parts of your routine that are still in your control, such as what time you wake up, any activities that you do in the house and any times you usually rest.

You could write your activities down at the end of each day, including the time that you did them, to help prompt you the next day and gradually form a new routine.

I feel lonely at home with my brain injury. What can I do?

Staying indoors for an indefinite length of time can be difficult, especially if you are living alone.

Being unable to visit friends and family can lead to feelings of loneliness. Some brain injury survivors might have relied heavily on such outings.

If you are comfortable with using a computer there are a number of online communities you could join to connect with others while at home. Headway’s HealthUnlocked community allows you to talk to other people affected by brain injury in a secure online space, and many Headway groups and branches continue to offer remote support.

Remember that our helpline is available if you need emotional support on 0808 800 2244 or (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm). The helpline can even offer a listening ear if you just need to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. You could also consider ringing other charity helplines such as Samaritans on 116 123.

If you are over 60, you might be able to get a regular ‘telephone befriender’ through Age UK’s Call in Time scheme. For more information on this scheme,
including criteria for being eligible, call Age UK’s Advice Line on 0800 055 6112.

Writing letters used to be the main method of communication between people who weren’t able to meet face-to-face – if you are able to write or type on a computer, you could consider reverting to this old fashioned method and write a letter
to a friend!

Try to keep busy with activities that you can enjoy around the house, such as reading, listening to music, gardening, or even cleaning. You could also consider trying out new activities that can help with your wellbeing such as art or mindfulness. Even sitting outside in the garden or finding a sunny spot in the house to sit in can help with feelings of well-being.

Use this time, if possible, to live life at a pace that suits you, instead of trying to keep up with the pace of usual life, which can sometimes be challenging for brain injury survivors.

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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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