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Health > Under the Rainbow4/14/10 IS Online


Mentoring project for people with traumatic brain injury.

By Melanie Yamaguchi

Sometimes an effective way to cope with a serious life-threatening event is to receive moral support from others who have gone through a similar experience.

The Ho‘oikaika Mentoring Project offers support for those with a traumatic brain injury by matching them with mentors who have also experienced a brain injury.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a disability caused by an external force or jolt to the head and can often result in death. In Hawai‘i, the primary causes of TBI are falls, followed by motor vehicle crashes.

TBI is often called the “invisible” disability because the person often shows no external physical changes. However, people with TBI often experience severe personality and behavioral changes that can affect them at home, work and in society throughout their lives.

The severity of TBI ranges from mild (short-term symptoms such as dizziness, headaches or unconsciousness) to severe (an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury).

Peer mentoring for persons with traumatic brain injury has proven to be essential for improving social relations, stress, and overall health and wellness. “It has made a real difference for people who have acknowledged that they have a TBI,” says Robin Brandt, Ho‘oikaika’s project director.

Ho‘oikaika, which is part of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, matches mentors and peers to create support through friendship. Participants share their experiences in monthly group trainings and meetings. The program also helps participants gain access to community resources. Various group activities, such as picnics and community service projects, help them build social skills and relationships.

If you’re interested in volunteering for Ho‘oikaika, call (808) 592-5900 on O‘ahu.

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