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Exploring the link between brain injury and depression with BBC Radio 5 Live Main Image

Exploring the link between brain injury and depression with BBC Radio 5 Live

Tue 02 Apr 2024

Headway Chief Executive Luke Griggs joined Nicky Campbell on his BBC 5 Live show to discuss early rehabilitation after a brain injury.


The conversation covered new research that could help to prevent depression and other mental health conditions impacting people from the point of sustaining a brain injury.

Click this link to listen to the conversation in full.

The discussion explored the findings of research which suggests that about half of people admitted to hospital with a head injury report major depression in the year after the accident, a rate ten times higher than the general population.

A small, early-stage research study in the USA has suggested that giving antidepressants to a person in the weeks after a brain injury could prevent major depression, leading to a theory that antidepressants might be triggering an anti-inflammatory response in the brain.

Now, researchers in England have begun a larger-scale study to try to find out if an antidepressant administered soon after brain injury could prevent depression and other mental health conditions from developing.

Speaking on BBC 5 Live with Nicky Campbell, Professor Ismail from Kings College, London, said:

“We want to help patients before these symptoms develop."

“If people were given an antidepressant early – within four weeks – before these symptoms have started to develop could this possibly prevent a worsening of their mental health problems?”

A panel of guests joined the discussion, including former vice-captain of the GB women’s hockey team and Headway ambassador Alex Danson-Bennett MBE, who spoke about the life-changing impact of her brain injury:

“I didn’t want to be labelled with having a mental health issue. As a result of my head injury, emotionally I couldn’t control my emotions.”

Alex continued:

“Would I ever get my life back? Would I ever feel as I used to feel?"

“What have I needed in my life? Complete support.”

When asked if she felt like if it was ‘a new you’ or ‘a you that’s returning’ Alex replied: “I’m a new, better me.”

Luke Griggs explained that the sooner we can support people who have had a traumatic brain injury, the better their likely outcome is going to be in life and the more chance they will have to rebuild a new life.

“The new life after brain injury is the fascinating thing coming out from this conversation."

"Headway’s own research shows that around 74% of brain injury survivors consider themselves to be a new person with a new personality."

"When you think about that, it’s incredibly complex to have to accept the fact that your life will change forever, rebuild an entirely new life, and then actually make the very best of that life.

"Then we’ve got to consider the impact that has on the family members, the carers, the loved ones, whose husband/wife/child has changed before their eyes and a new personality has entered that relationship. It’s a really complex area and vital that people get that kind of support."

Find out more

- Read more on the BBC website

- Find out more about the emotional effects of brain injury

- Contact our helpline if you would like to discuss any of the issues covered here

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10 ways to cope with depression after brain injury

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