Impact of mental health issues on relationships
Those of us who work with brain injury survivors know the effects of such injuries can be many and varied, and tragically can often affect the key relationships of the people concerned. It is often said that the effects of a brain injury do not happen just to one person, but to whole families and networks of people close to the survivor.
Although studies vary, it is also generally accepted that the rates of divorce and separation in relationships are higher than the national average, both for people who were in a relationship before their brain injury and indeed for relationships which start after the injury occurs. The effects of brain injury can cause a change in responsibilities, change of roles and changes in ways of communicating in a relationship and this in turn can increase stress and tension for the people involved.
The provision of specialist rehabilitation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, other therapy and counselling and support can help maintain relationships and ensure they stay fulfilling and loving for all involved. Most neuropsychologists would recommend that such therapy should be provided by professionals with expertise in dealing with the consequences of brain injury, but as recent studies have shown there can often be gaps in the provision of such services nationally. Those who are pursuing compensation claims can often seek damages to pay for the cost of such therapy privately, but it should be a goal for funding to be made available that high quality and expert therapy can be provided to all so that meaningful and important relationships can be maintained.
However, if tragically a relationship does end, then the brain injury survivor should consult lawyers who have a conciliatory approach, so whilst protecting their clients’ interests, will do so in a way to avoid as much antagonism as possible. Brain Injury Survivors who have concluded or who are pursuing a claim for compensation, particularly where damages are provided to pay for care and support into the future, should consult lawyers to deal with their relationship breakdown who have an understanding of this situation and a sensitivity to the complex financial considerations involved.
What about the brain injury survivor who is embarking on a new relationship? In February 2014 the Law Commission recommended that pre-nuptial agreements should become binding. Recent case law has also strengthened the legal weight that would be attached to such an agreement and, although they are still not binding, it is increasingly being determined that such agreements will be upheld if they are fair. Such agreements can set out the intentions of people entering into relationships and while deciding whether to use such an agreement is an intensely personal one, Clarke Willmott can advise about whether to claim the costs of such agreements in personal injury claims. Our expert family law team can assist in explaining their use, and on all aspects of relationship breakdown. Of course, the primary focus will always be on providing the support to allow people to maintain their key relationships in a positive way, but it can be reassuring to know advice is available.
For further advice please contact
Philip Edwards, Partner, Serious Injury Team.
Rayner Grice, Partner, Family Law Team.