“Peer support is really important when you have a brain injury.”
Sarah Kerr is the acting local services manager in our Wexford rehabilitation service. Our women’s group in Drinagh is one of our longest established services in the country. Here members meet every Wednesday to do everything from cookery to crafts; but most importantly, to connect.
Sarah has seen many women’s lives turned upside down after brain injury. Many had to leave college or a career or are struggling with childcare. Many women were left feeling lost or isolated.
Brain injury can affect your sense of identity
Sarah says: “You get a sense of worth from your employment or from your role within the family. So when you have a brain injury and you have to give up that role – whether you’re working in a shop or looking after your family – it affects your sense of identity.”
But the power of meeting people who understand exactly how you feel, cannot be underestimated. Talking about the magic of the women’s group in Wexford, Sarah said: “Here, the women can come into each other with concerns or issues and the other people in the group can say ‘yes, I’ve had that too’. It’s a really safe space for people to be themselves.”
A place to be yourself
The supportive environment of our Wexford clubhouse where our women’s group meets every week allows people to build their confidence. Whether it’s having the confidence to get out and about again or learning a new skill, our clubhouse is there to help them along.
Sarah added: “A lot of people come to our art classes. Most people never did art before their injury but now they find it is such a good outlet for them. They realise ‘God, this is something that I can do. I’m actually good at it’ and it takes them away from concentrating on deficits and negative thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’.”
Power of peer support
Over time, our women’s group members are supported to achieve their own goals, such as returning to work. But no matter what people’s personal ambitions are, Sarah believes there is huge power in sharing the journey.
Sara said: “People who have been through the same thing as you and have come out the other side, have found outlets for themselves that have given them the support they need. It’s given them confidence and it helps them to be more independent and maximise their abilities and feel positive about themselves.”
This article is taken from the latest issue of Irish Country Magazine, April issue 2019.