Synapse: Helping people living with brain injury

Synapse is one of the peak bodies supporting people impacted by brain injury. Synapse runs several projects directly with icare that benefit and support people in Lifetime Care and Workers Care.

A group of people sit with their chairs in a circle.

What does Synapse do?

Synapse helps to improve the services and systems for people living with brain injury through information, referrals, advocacy, peer and family support programs. Synapse believes everyone deserves control over of their life and to make choices that are important to them.

Jennifer Cullen has been the organisation's CEO for the past 12 years, and Sonya Green is Project Manager for Community Partnerships.

Jennifer Cullen portait

Jennifer Cullen, CEO, Synapse.

Sonya Green portrait

Sonya Green, Project Manager for Community Partnerships, Synapse.

Support from icare

icare funds the Reconnections program which provides support to Care participants and their families. It has two family liaison officers who have lived experience of brain injury, so they understand what people have been through. One of these liaison officers is Damien, a Workers Care participant.

Read Damien's story

Reconnections also operates through regional groups where participants can learn from other people's stories and hear about different experiences with brain injury.

icare also funds the online brain injury forum, a secure space where participants can discuss their experiences with a supportive community of people living and working with brain injury. Participants can talk to others with similar experiences who also understand life after a brain injury.

COVID-19 changes to service delivery

When the lockdown started, Synapse ramped up its online programs.

"We already had two closed Facebook groups—one for people with a brain injury and another for carers and family members—both moderated by our staff. We've had a lot of new requests to join and we've been able to expand and adapt the groups," says Jennifer.

COVID-19 has forced Synapse to broaden the structure of the groups to keep them going. Some are more structured with a guest speaker, while others are more informal where people just come and talk about how they're feeling.

Another adaptation made has been a new anonymous forum covering brain injury and sexuality.

"It's been very successful. A lot of really good, open discussion, and it's been helped by being anonymous. We'll keep these going. The feedback is that people like the new service offerings they are seeing now," says Sonya.

During the initial lockdown period people continued to contact Synapse by phone or by web inquiry.

"We think there are going to be exciting opportunities for new accessible apps that work for people with speech and motor-skill difficulties. But I don't think face-to-face will ever be replaced," says Sonya.

"One thing that really hit home for us during the lockdown, was that the rest of society was experiencing the social isolation that for people living with a brain injury is their everyday norm. As a member of one of the Facebook Reconnections groups said, 'Now the rest of the world knows what we are experiencing'."