March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and the Department of Health Sciences has placed recognition on the topic through a unique display on the first floor of Bondurant Hall.
In the display case located on the first floor near the elevators, 12 colorful masks hang with printed descriptions. Each is unique in its decoration and tells its own story.
The masks are created by survivors of brain injury to tell their stories and explain how their injuries affect their lives in an effort to educate others about the prevalence of brain injury and what it’s like to live with a brain injury. These survivors are from central North Carolina, but similar masks are created and put on display across the country through the “Unmasking Brain Injury” project developed by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA). The Brain Injury Association of North Carolina (BIANC) is an affiliate of the BIAA and facilitated the creation of the masks currently on display within the Department of Health Sciences.
“We are grateful to the BIANC for sharing these masks and the associated stories behind each one. As we recognize Brain Injury Awareness Month, we also hope to raise the recognition of the importance of the health professions workforce in addressing the wide-ranging needs of this population,” said Dr. Stephen Hooper, Associate Dean of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Health Sciences.
Some of the causes of brain injury listed in the survivors’ stories include motor vehicle accidents, work-related falls and stroke. Many of the survivors explain feeling frustrated, sad and helpless due to their injuries, but recognize the support they feel from family and friends – many of them are eager to push forward and find happiness despite their brain injury. BIANC uses the masks to show how persons living with a disability due to brain injury are deserving of dignity, respect, compassion and opportunity.
“BIANC’s Unmasking Brain Injury project has given people who survived a brain injury the opportunity to creatively tell their story of recovery and healing,” said Dr. Judy Schmidt, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences’ Division of Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling and facilitator of the display. “Each mask is unique and reinforces the fact that brain injury is different for each person, so our approach in providing care and support should be person-centered.”
The masks and their descriptions, along with other printed information about brain injuries, are currently on display – a second set will be rotated in for display in April. All are invited to stop by to read the stories and learn more about brain injuries and the people “behind the mask” of brain injury in our community.