Number 29 in our countdown of '70 Ways Art Improves Our Health' highlights how art helps people with brain injury towards their rehabilitation...

Every year almost a million people visit A&E with a head injury. Most people will be lucky enough to avoid any permanent damage but many others will be left with a lifelong Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). There are many possible causes of TBI. The most common include falls and car accidents.

When a person suffers a brain injury, it can have wide-ranging impacts on their physical and mental health. Everyday activities, such as speaking, walking, and eating, may have to be relearned. They may experience emotional and behavioural changes, such as anger and memory loss. These effects have a direct impact on survivors’ personalities, relationships, and independence.

Brain injury can happen at any age and most survivors remember how they lived before their injury. Feelings of grief and frustration, and the potential loss of the means to communicate their emotions in words, means that a third of brain injury survivors are diagnosed with depression in the first year following their injury.

Art has helped me to tell my story, and to feel positive about myself. It’s provided a way to talk to my friends about what happened to me.

Chris Miller, a retired teacher who suffered brain injury after tumour removal

To overcome this, it is vital that survivors grieve their lost former lives and learn new ways to live. And that is where art comes in. A range of studies has found that art can contribute to recovery in many ways.

As we already explored in this series, art can help to improve cognitive abilities: our memory, logic and attention. Holding a paintbrush or pencil can help redevelop fine motor skills. And most importantly, art (and particularly art therapy) can be the perfect means of expressing feelings about the serious emotional and physical trauma survivors have experienced. Art therapy can help a survivor to grieve, express anger, and relieve depression, while also boosting self-esteem and learning to accept their new life.

Since 1995, patients at the art workshop at Homerton Hospital have worked in collaboration with local artists towards their recovery from brain injuries. 'The Mind's Eye: Art & recovery from brain injuries' is a new exhibition, featuring artworks created and chosen by patients from the Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit. The show opens on 12 June at Hackney Museum.

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