In the shadow of the illnesses that have plagued celebrity rocker Brett Michaels and former child star Gary Coleman it is important to know that sudden health issues can happen to anyone.  It is reported that Brett Michaels and Gary Coleman both suffered brain hemorrhages. Any type of injury to the brain can be life changing and devastating to the individual and those around them. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can co-occur and may interfere with making the appropriate mental health diagnosis complicating treatment.

It is important to know that TBI does not discriminate and can happen at any moment to anyone. The Center for Disease Control states, that while not all head trauma result in a TBI, it can be caused by trauma (jolts or hard shakes) to the head that interfere with the normal functioning of the brain.  Further that the severity of a TBI may range from minor to extreme. Langlois, Rutland-Brown and Thomas, (2006), state that that the leading causes of TBI are falls, assaults, motor vehicle-traffic crashes, bullets, fragments, and blasts. 

While just about anyone is at risk for having a TBI, recent data from the CDC shows that males are twice as probable as females to sustain a TBI. Infants, children up to 4 years and teenagers 15 to 19 are at the highest risk for a TBI.  Certain occupations increase the risk for sustaining a TBI (military personnel, law enforcement, etc.), which are traditionally male dominated professions.

A TBI can cause a wide range of changes affecting ones senses, comprehension, emotions, thought processes, communication style and social interactions. Psychological issues such as depression, anxiety and aggression are a few examples of emotional states that may be affected.  It is important to note that a TBI has occurred if you are seeking mental health treatment.  Usually people do not realize that a history of experiencing a TBI could be having an effect on their current emotional state.  In addition, if the TBI was part of other injuries that occurred or one is experiencing physical pain, this could be a large part of mental symptoms (i.e. depression).

Individuals diagnosed with a TBI have varied experiences regarding recovery. In general literature, reports that recovery is more difficult for older persons. Moreover, individuals with a history of TBI might have a longer recovery if re-injured. At any rate, if someone has suffered a TBI, they should talk to a health care provider as soon as possible. If a TBI is left untreated, mental health symptoms may be inadequately diagnosed and physical health will likely be effected.

Tips to assist your mental health professional:

  • Be open and share all medical and psychiatric history with your mental health professional.  This will assist treatment and appropriate diagnosis.
  • Report all symptoms even if you think they are unrelated.  As stated earlier, TBI  will often affect mental health issues.
  • Look for mental health providers familiar with TBI.  Usually a mental health professional located in a hospital or clinic setting will have familiarity or have medical providers in the setting to assist.


Langlois J.A., Rutland-Brown, W. & Thomas, K.E. (2006). Traumatic brain injury in the

United States: Emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Atlanta

(GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.