British Columbia

A Change of Mind: New documentary explores the pervasiveness of brain injuries

Every year, 165,000 Canadians receive a traumatic brain injury — excluding concussions. A new documentary explores the pervasiveness of the injuries and the effect TBIs have on society.

60 to 80 % of prisoners world-wide have a traumatic brain injury, according to documentary

Derick Forsyth in a still from A Change of Mind, a new documentary on brain injury. (A Change of Mind/Vimeo)

When Derick Forsyth suffered a traumatic brain injury after a severe car accident, it meant he'd have to re-learn a lot of things he took for granted.

"How to shop, how to walk, how to cook, how to read [and] how to talk a little bit ... I had to learn everything all over again," he told host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition.

Part of Forsyth's road to recovery is captured in the new film A Change of Mind — a documentary highlighting the pervasiveness of undiagnosed TBIs and difficulties many survivors endure.

According to the documentary, each year 165,000 Canadians suffer a traumatic brain injury. When they go undiagnosed, the consequences can lead to uncharacteristic behaviour and emotions.

The film was produced by Hilary Pryor, who began working on the project after she learned that TBIs are especially prominent in prisons across the globe.

In the U.S., for example, as many as 87 per cent of prisoners have experienced a brain injury, compared to just eight per cent of the general population, according to the Center for Disease Control.

"The key thing is those brain injuries, for the most part, were incurred before there was any criminal behaviour," said Pryor.  "It has huge implications for how we deal with people who are transgressing against the law."

The film focuses heavily on incarcerated TBI survivors and highlights the need for more survivors to be diagnosed.

Forsyth has had trouble with the law for much of his adult life and believes his behaviour was heavily influenced by his undiagnosed TBI. He says he is one of many survivors who have slipped through the cracks.

"it's kind of shocking when I see the amount of people who are in jail who are undiagnosed. They have a brain injury and nobody's doing anything about it. They're just keeping them in the system and revolving them," he said.

"There's a reason why the person keeps coming back to the hospital or keeps coming back to the jail — it's because they have a brain injury that's undiagnosed. They're self-medicating."

The documentary airs on CHEK at 9 pm PT Saturday and OUTTV 8 pm on Sunday. You can also rent a copy on their webpage.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Made-in-Victoria documentary sheds light on brain injury