A servicemember receives a Diffusion Tensor Imaging scan of his brain at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

A servicemember receives a Diffusion Tensor Imaging scan of his brain at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collecting video testimony from people suffering from traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

About 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year, according to the CDC, with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center estimating that since 2000, more than 233,000 of those TBI sufferers have been servicemembers or Department of Defense employees.

Since March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, the CDC partnered with the CDC Foundation to launch the Heads Up TBI Film Festival, an online collection of video and written testimonials about traumatic brain injury. The initiative is designed to empower affected servicemembers and civilians to seek help and to place important information for diagnosis and treatment at the fingertips of survivors, caregivers, health care professionals, parents, coaches, children, and school professionals, according to Gail Hayes, senior press officer at the CDC Injury Center.

“The Heads Up initiative is a series of educational programs, that all have a common goal: to help protect people of all ages from TBI and its potentially devastating effects,” Hayes said. “The goal for the film festival is to ... give a voice to TBI — so it is no longer the ‘silent epidemic.’ ”

There are no incentives for participating, Hayes said, but at the end of March, the CDC and CDC Foundation will create a compilation video using the stories.

Interested parties are asked to log onto YouTube and upload a video sharing their personal story dealing with TBI, including why they feel this is an important issue, then tag the video with “HeadsUpFilmFestival.” Those who don’t have access or interest in making a video can share their experiences on the festival’s Facebook page, Hayes said.

“You can talk about anything and everything in a video that gives meaning to your experience. What caused your brain injury? What changes are you coping with? Name some awesome resources that make your recovery possible. Share what hurts, what helps, who listens, who cares,” Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury spokeswoman Jayne Davis said in a news release Wednesday.

All of the videos posted to the YouTube channel will be reviewed by the foundation’s staff, Hayes said.

With the TBI Act of 1995, the CDC was tasked with conducting surveillance, research, as well as raising awareness about traumatic brain injuries, Hayes said. For the past 15 years, the CDC has developed and distributed research and educational information. Their work is not specific to servicemembers but to all TBI sufferers.

For more information on TBI, including festival information, data/statistics, signs and symptoms, what do if you have a brain injury, and where to find support and resources, as well as downloadable educational materials, go to the CDC's TBI page, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center page, or the Defense Centers of Excellence Brain Injury Awareness Month page.

Click here to submit a video to the Heads Up YouTube channel

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Grafenwoehr, Germany, for Stars and Stripes since 2024. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Okinawa, Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the news organization. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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