Mental illness directly or indirectly impacts everyone at some point during their life. It has no boundaries and can affect people of all ages, education, income level and cultures.1

For those that don’t know, Bell Let’s Talk (or #BellLetsTalk) is an initiative designed to “break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada.”2 Over the years, the campaign has been tremendously successful, and has had a far-reaching impact beyond Canada’s borders. The end goal is to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Bell Let’s Talk is taking place on January 31, 2018.

While there are countless symptoms, illnesses and co-morbidities that fall under the umbrella of mental illness, our goal is to shine some light on how a concussion may cause mental health problems and vice versa.

Are symptoms caused by a mental health problem or a concussion?

The human brain plays a critical role in controlling our behaviour and emotions. It’s no surprise that an injury to the brain can worsen existing mental health problems or bring about new issues.

Depression. Anxiety. Confusion. Concentration problems. Emotional difficulties. Personality changes. Irritability. Memory issues.

These are some of the symptoms of both concussion and mental illness.

Concussion symptoms and mental health problems can be very difficult to tell apart. But, it’s important to understand what may be contributing to these issues and prolonged concussion recovery:

Pre-existing mental health problems: Many studies show that patients with a history of depression or anxiety are more likely to have prolonged concussion symptoms. Suffering a concussion may worsen these underlying issues and exacerbate symptoms, making them more apparent.

Improper concussion management: Concussion care is rapidly evolving. If someone tells you to rest in a dark room for a long period of time, this may actually delay recovery and make your symptoms worse. In fact, rest is no longer the best approach. Treatment that includes guided exercise therapy and manual therapy may help patients to get better, faster.3

Lack of social activity: How can you have a social life if you are told to sit in a dark room? Humans are social beings. We crave interaction and relationships and need to be connected. Avoiding friends or family, or not going to school can cause symptoms and feelings such as loneliness, anxiety, depression and uncontrollable emotions.

The good news is that appropriate care can help to resolve some mental health symptoms, which may be caused by a concussion.  Education and patient reassurance by a trained and knowledgeable healthcare practitioner are some of the proven, evidence-based treatments for persistent symptoms.  Access to timely multidisciplinary care in collaboration with your physician to co-manage injuries and provide appropriate rehabilitation is often the best approach.

In more serious cases, you may require additional support from a psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professionals such as a social worker. If you or someone you know are feeling depressed or hopeless, please seek appropriate support!

For more information about #BellLetsalk and Bell Let’s Talk Day, visit their website. Be sure to share with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk to support those impacted by mental illness.

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Mental Illness