Traumatic Brain Injury and Homelessness

The Mercy Foundation is funding a project with Dr Jessica Mackelprang at Swinburne University to investigate whether frontline workers feel adequately knowledgeable about traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the cognitive, emotional, and behavioural difficulties that are associated with brain injury. Additionally, workers will be asked if they feel that they have the skills to effectively engage individuals who may experience related neuropsychiatric symptoms.

TBI occurs when an acute trauma to the head causes an injury to the brain. TBI is associated with a host of neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as memory problems, problem-solving difficulties, emotional regulation and mood. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide. International research has found that TBI is a common occurrence among people who experience homelessness. In Australia, it is estimated that around 29% of adults who access homelessness services self-report a brain injury. According to Dr Mackelprang:

“People with a history of TBI face unique challenges that make attaining and sustaining housing difficult. They may require a tailored form of support to sustain their housing over time. Frontline workers, such as supportive housing workers and case managers, are integral to supporting people to attain and sustain housing.

Clarifying and addressing this gap is important for ensuring frontline workers are prepared to effectively support clients who have a history of homelessness and TBI to successfully sustain housing over time. In order to optimise housing outcomes and quality of life, it is imperative that frontline workers in the homelessness sector understand the needs of people living with the sequelae of TBI, including common symptoms of TBI and ways in which TBI may potentially influence a client’s presentation or outcomes, such that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support TBI affected clients.”

Dr Mackelprang has finalised her data collection for this study, having recruited 150 frontline workers to complete an online survey and conducted 20 individual interviews. She and her team are currently analysing the data and developing a fact sheet and brief online training module to be released for use by frontline workers. The training module will help fill the gaps of knowledge and provide practical strategies for working with clients who experience cognitive, emotional and behavioural difficulties associated with TBI. The fact sheets and training module as expected to be released in July 2020.