Cultural Variations in understanding TBI

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According to Simpson, Mohr and Redman (2000) “little is known of the extent to which different cultural conceptions of TBI are negative, stigmatizing the person and their family, and how such stigma may influence patterns of behaviour and adjustment, and also the impact of TBI on people’s broader social relationships” (p.126).

The qualitative study by Simpson et al., which interviewed people in Australia with TBI and family members from the Italian, Lebanese and Vietnamese backgrounds showed how brain injury led to stigma and shame with an associated withdrawal of the community.

A central theme of the findings from this study is that shame seemed to be a powerful cultural dynamic, as a number of respondents and family members recounted lying to friends and family members about the injury, concealing vital facts from family members and rehabilitation providers, or withdrawing themselves from their normal social networks to try and minimize the impact of the shame

Simpson et al. explained that one source of the shame came from the perceived association of brain damage with madness. Simpson et al. reported that an Arabic bilingual interviewer observed that a respondent was not comfortable with the term ‘brain injury’ when used in Arabic, and hypothesized that anything wrong with the brain in Arabic may be understood as a sort of madness and that is shameful.

Furthermore, the study by Simpson et al. stated that similar views were expressed by Vietnamese and Italian respondents/family members and noted by the interviewers, while one noticeable difference was that only the Vietnamese explicitly expressed that the shame was brought upon the whole family, not just the person with the TBI (Simpson at al., 2000, p. 136).