Every 15 minutes in New Zealand somebody suffers a brain injury, and to highlight the issue Northland will be undergoing a blackout next week for Brain Injury Awareness Week.

Brain Injury Association Northland has organised a number of events to mark the week, with a gig at the Butter Factory, in Whangārei, next Friday by acclaimed jazz artist John Leigh Calder being used to highlight the issue.

Brain injury is often called the "silent epidemic" and referred to as a "hidden injury" as more often than not there are no outwardly visible changes to a person after a brain injury.

It is reported that a person receives a brain injury every 15 minutes. The injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in NZ and can have life-changing results for both the injured person and their family/whānau.

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The theme for the week is "Black out for Brain Injury'' and all the Butter Factory staff and band will be wearing black and people attending are also encouraged to wear it.

The causes of brain injury are many and varied, most are due to falls (38 per cent), followed by crashes and assaults. It can be very difficult to predict what the long-term outlook might be as every person, injury and recovery is different.

People with brain injuries are often seen as lazy or hard to get along with by family and friends. Their personality may have changed, they can no longer process information quickly and make poor decisions.

The Brain Injury Association Northland provides a safe, barrier-free service to support and assist people understand and navigate through the confusing aftermath of an injury, this includes both the individual with the injury, as well as the family and supporters.

Increasing understanding will directly prevent unnecessary injuries and minimise the extent of an injury where protection and good sense prevail.

When people understand, the fear can be diminished. Education brings understanding and enables people living with brain injury to better communicate who they are with the world around them.

The organisation has two Northland liaison officers - Vikki Herdman and Dave Wright - covering from Wellsford to Cape Reinga. There are monthly support groups in several areas in Northland. They also support clients to attend appointments and liaise with services they require.

The association is also very involved with injury prevention and road safety education, and participates in in the annual RYDA programme in high schools, court-directed driver retraining with St John's Driving Academy and the roadside fatigue stops during the summer in partnership with local agencies such as NRC and Northland Roadsafety Association.

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For more details of the week, RYDA courses or brain injuries go to northland@brain-injury.org.nz or www.brain-injury.org.nz.