SPRINGFIELD — March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, but Mental Health Assoc. Inc. (MHA) works year-round to provide support and services to people living with an acquired brain injury (ABI). An acquired brain injury is any injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma.
ABIs — from trauma, stroke, infectious diseases, and brain tumors — are a serious public-health issue in the U.S., where someone sustains a brain injury every nine seconds. Brain Injury Awareness Month rallies a large community to raise awareness and advocate for causes they care about.
MHA creates opportunities for independence at the Resource Center, which helps members overcome barriers through natural, sustainable community supports and life-stage-appropriate accommodations.
“The people who come to the Resource Center could be any of us,” said Sara Kyser, vice president of New Way Services at MHA. “They are people who had jobs, have families, and have hobbies. Each person had a unique identity before their injury, and we seek to honor their pre-injury lifestyle, culture, family, and environment.”
The Resource Center is a safe space for survivors of an acquired brain injury and helps people regain some of what they have lost. The Resource Center adapts programming to help members meet their needs and wants. Members drive the planning of each week’s activities down to specific classes, support groups, guest speakers, special-event nights, and recreational outings. This involvement gives members a feeling of ownership and belonging, enriching their engagement.
“The Resource Center is designed in a way where everything is purposeful,” Kyser said. “Members participate in woodworking, African drumming, music therapy, nutrition and wellness coaching, assistive technology, gardening, and even equine therapy.”
Community members are welcome to share their passion and talent with the Resource Center. MHA welcomes volunteers who are interested in working with members for various activities such as knitting, crocheting, and arts and crafts projects. For more information on the Resource Center, email Kyser at firstname.lastname@example.org.