The 'Silent Epidemic'

A RANDALSTOWN mum has called for more recognition and support for people suffering from brain injury, as the council prepares to shine a light on the ‘silent epidemic’.

Amelia O’Neill’s children Fintan and Mary were badly injured after they were hit by a car after disembarking from their school bus near Creggan in 2017.

Fintan suffered numerous broken bones but has made a full recovery, while Mary, now 15, suffered a brain injury and will need assistance for the rest of her life.

The teenager spent eight months in hospital and had to learn to walk and talk again.

While the family were elated to have her home, they struggled to adjust to their new way of life.

That’s where the charity Brain Injury Matter stepped in, offering practical support, teaching new strategies to help Mary cope with everyday tasks and providing counselling to Amelia and husband Kevin as well as their youngest charity Katie, who was struggling to come to terms with the huge changes in her family.

This week, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council will light up Civic Buildings in support of Action for Brain Injury Week, which takes place from Monday May 17-23 .

To support this campaign the council will light up Antrim Civic Centre in blue and green on Wednesday May 19.

This year’s theme is ‘A life of lockdown’ focusing on social isolation after brain injury, a problem which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The effects of brain injury, such as problems with memory, information processing, or speech, compounded by a lack of understanding of this often hidden disability, can leave survivors lacking the confidence to interact with society.

The campaign will help to raise awareness and also give a voice to survivors and carers to help them better explain to their friends and families the challenges they face as a result of brain injury.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Jim Montgomery said: “Isolation and loneliness are feelings many of us have experienced during this pandemic but to live with this every day is unimaginable.

“I hope those suffering from a brain injury can feel some comfort from this campaign.”

To read Mary’s story and how the family were assisted by Brain Injury Matters, turn to Page 4.

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