Spinal Cord Injuries & Depression

Now I’m not a big fan of lawyers, (in fact, any joke that ends with a lawyer being eaten by an alligator is almost guaranteed to get a laugh), I have to concede that I was impressed with the blog below from Rix & McKay Solicitors LLP in the UK. So I’ve decided to share the full blog on depression and mental health treatment after spinal cord injuries below:

Spinal Cord Injuries – How Would You Feel?

When you know, meet or work with people who have suffered a spinal cord injury you are allowed a small insight into the impact it has had upon that person and the way their life has changed. Imagine you woke up tomorrow without the ability to get out of bed and make your morning cup of tea.

The physical changes and challenges a spinal cord injury presents are often obvious to the eye. But the mental impact can often remain a very private and personal battle to the individual who has suffered the injury.

Studies have shown that 25-30% of people who suffer a spinal cord injury suffer from either depression and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Those suffering with depression and/or PTSD who are actually diagnosed however is a shockingly poor 1-2%. Why is it the diagnosis rate so poor? How come so many people being left to suffer with the mental anguish following such a traumatic and life changing injury?

The answer lies possibly in the poor training of healthcare professionals of the symptoms of depression and PTSD. Along with the fact that many think it is someone else’s job to diagnose and treat the symptoms. Rather than being pro-active and finding the right person to help make the diagnosis. And then help obtain the right treatment.

Each person who has a spinal cord injury is likely to have a different reaction to it. For example, the impact of a spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia (loss of used of the legs) is likely to have much higher psychological implications for someone who is young or a professional sportsman. Or on someone who takes particular pride in their personal appearance. Especially when compared to someone who is not so concerned about appearance. Or perhaps someone who works in an office job and isn’t particularly active.

In the first example, a sportsman is going to have their career and ‘identity’ taken away by this traumatic event. And he is far more likely to have a psychological impact resulting in PTSD or depression. In the second example however, the person who works in an office at a desk may find that life hasn’t changed so much. And while changes occur, they are still able to continue with work. And have an identity or life at least familiar to that before their accident.

There of course is no exact science to define how each person will react to a spinal cord injury. Multiple factors come into play. What is clear however, is that the consequences of not diagnosing depression and PTSD can be serious and sometimes fatal. Studies have shown that those who suffer a spinal cord injury are 5 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. And there are concerns that this number could be higher still. Because the psychological impact of these injuries is not being properly diagnosed. And therefore not being addressed or recorded in their entirety.

What can you do therefore to ensure the right diagnosis and treatment? Speaking as a Claimant Solicitor, the role we play is far greater than obtaining compensation for our clients. Being aware of our client’s well-being , change in mood and personality pre and post accident mean we look for the signs that a psychological issue may exist. And subsequently ensure that we sought the right help for our client as early as possible. If our client is bringing a personal injury claim then normally the Defendant’s insurer can recover the cost of the treatment.

Treatment is often in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It can help prevent mood disorders developing and safe guarding the individual into their future. It can help them to adjust to their new life. And it is usually effective to most of those who undergo the treatment with a properly qualified therapist.

To view the full blog post: http://www.rixandkay.co.uk/2013/01/25/spinal-cord-injuries-how-would-you-feel/