Will the Sandy Hook tragedy and the movie they want to do on mental illness in CT take away from the brain injury community?

My Name is Craig Sears I am a survivor of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) this event changed each and every single aspect of my life, being someone that lives with a brain injury my journey made me all-too familiar with the difficulties of individuals and families working through the arbitrary system of care. For years, I felt as though no one else knew what I was going through, but believe me Traumatic Brain Injury survivors almost ALWAYS experience the same things.

After suffering my injury in 1987, in the years that followed there was little knowledge on TBI in the medical field and even less in the public. As a result, my physical injuries were confused with intoxication or drug abuse and my brain injury misdiagnosed as mental illness. I was falsely arrested and institutionalized time and time again. My life turned into a constant tug of war. If it was not a mental institution it was a jail cell. Today more awareness has occurred, but there is still much to learn.

There have been many studies shown that brain injuries are NOT a mental illness. Well, then why do the states still continue to put it under that category? My thoughts would be because it’s an easy way out of not taking care of this bigger issue. TBI is separate and distinct from developmental and mental health diagnoses. Individuals with developmental disabilities and/or mental health issues may suffer a TBI. However, not all individuals with TBI have developmental or mental health issues. Finally, challenges and interventions implemented with survivors of TBI may be very different from those implemented with individuals with developmental disabilities, mental-health diagnoses and a dual-diagnosis of TBI and developmental disabilities and/or mental health issues.

You may ask; was the shooter identified as having a brain injury? No, the bigger picture is we are allowing the United States to walk all over the brain injury survivors and allowing them to say that the shooting that accord at Sandy Hook Elementary has to do with brain injury. You might also say there is not enough information about the shooter to make any diagnosis, and you might be right but at the end of the day they are still not the same! All of the talk of Asperger's Syndrome is misdirection... Asperger's Syndrome is not known to create violence (i.e., our prisons are not filled with kids with autism but they are filled with kids with brain injury). Everyone needs to wake up and realize the bigger picture. Or is this just another way for the United States/Connecticut to take advantage of us, “the brain injury survivors?”

It hasn’t even been a whole two months and they are already trying to put together a movie on mental illnesses with the mention of the Sandy Hook tragedy. People, can we let the families be at peace? Of course not, why would they? All they are worried about is making money and not worrying about what they are doing or putting the families through, look at the bigger picture.

We hear how brain injury and mental health are “alike”, well they are not and everyone needs to understand this. By putting these into the same category is not making things any better. I know many people who have either a mental illness or a traumatic brain injury and they are both two different topics. Again my point is on the bigger picture which is dealing with brain injury. The United States was handed a National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan on a silver platter that would help in situations such as this. (I.e. a traumatic brain injury is not a mental illness it is an injury, injuries require care, care we all need, care this plan can provide). The National PABI Plan Act of 2011 is bipartisan legislation that seeks to develop a seamless, standardized, evidence-based system of care that is universally accessible for the millions of families who have a child or young adult suffering the leading cause of death and disability for American youth and then transitioning into an adult system of greater independent living.

It always seems to amaze me how people can talk down to someone just because they are different and I’m constantly talked down. It’s bad enough trying to find anyone that knows anything about brain injury. I’ve been a participant in the Connecticut Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Waiver Program for several years and I have YET to find anyone that I don’t need to tell what to do, or anyone that does not talk down to me like I’m a 2 year old, or even try to get one over on me! I have kept in this “box” where I’m very limited on what I can do. I believe that my rehabilitation has been curtailed as a result.

We all need to stop and take the time to really understand the difference between the two (mental health & brain injury) because they or NOT one in the same. They are two completely different situations and different disabilities.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities impacted by this horrible... attack.

This movie is wrong on so many levels.

Craig Sears a Voice for Traumatic Brain Injury