Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness | The Michael Hutchence Foundation
Traumatic brain injury awareness – what do you make of it? The truth is, not too many of us are that familiar with what a traumatic brain injury (TBI) means. What are the effects of an injury to the brain?
This lack of awareness is precisely why the sister of Michael Hutchence – who was the main lyricist and lead singer of the Australian band INXS – set up The Michael Hutchence Foundation.
If you’re wondering what happened to Michael Hutchence and what his memory has to do with TBI awareness, here’s a brief outline.
Traumatic brain injury awareness & Michael Hutchence
Copenhagen, August 1992. Just a year after INXS performed their career-topping live gig at Wembley Stadium during the summer of 1991, Michael Hutchence was cycling along the streets of the Danish capital one night with his girlfriend, supermodel Helena Christensen.
Then came the moment that would change Michael’s life forever. What followed was the permanent loss of his sense of taste and smell, and a downward spiral into depression over the course of the next five years. Tragically, this culminated in his suicide in a Sydney hotel room in November 1997.
Michael sustained a TBI when he was knocked to the ground by an impatient taxi driver who wanted him out of the way. There was lots of blood and a loss of consciousness after he hit his head. Hard. Helena feared he was dead at first, then cared for him in her Copenhagen apartment while he recovered.
The after-effects of a TBI
The problem was – Michael never really recovered. Apart from the birth of his only child, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, the 1990s for him became increasingly dark as he sunk into depression and – during some moments – utter despair.
On 22nd November – 2 months before his 38th birthday – Michael Hutchence was found dead. The coroner ruled suicide, based on all the available evidence.
One factor influencing others’ understanding of his condition was the fact that the singer kept the news very much to himself. It was only when his friend, the film-maker Richard Lowenstein (who incidentally directed the video for the famous Never Tear Us Apart video set in Prague) made the Mystify documentary that the truth came out.
TBI symptoms & Michael Hutchence
INXS fans like me now understand why their idol appeared increasingly detached, moody and withdrawn during the years following the Copenhagen assault. We now know why Michael didn’t appear to be the same smiling person he formerly was.
Although devastating for his fans, the loss was of course far worse for Michael’s nearest and dearest. He left behind not only his daughter, but a father, mother, brother and sister and more.
Before he departed, he in turn was left with some of what are now known to be typical TBI symptoms – problems with the senses of taste, smell, vision, touch and hearing. The condition’s other effects include problems with thinking and emotions, and even physical difficulties.
It explains Michael’s erratic behaviour during the early and mid-1990s after the injury was sustained. He was confrontational and disconnected, often struggling with life in a way he never had before. Close friends he did confide in say the loss of his sense of smell and taste left him utterly desolate.
TBI awareness & The Michael Hutchence Foundation
To help those struggling with similar effects, Michael’s sister Tina set up The Michael Hutchence Foundation. Its website has recently been upgraded, so if you’re reading this, do take a look so you can see for yourself.
The aims of the Michael Hutchence Foundation are to provide educational programmes and advocacy as well as support for anyone affected by a TBI. Research into the condition is also a key focus. In short, the foundation supplies Traumatic Brain Injury resources in various forms.
A TBI can have far-reaching effects, way beyond the person themselves. It affects the friends and family around the individual in addition to those providing care for them. As those close to Michael Hutchence know only too well.
The Michael Hutchence Foundation is like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the talented musician’s untimely death. That phoenix is now primed and ready to spread its wings, spreading the word about what a TBI really means across the globe.
TBI awareness month
Led by the Brain Injury Association of America, March is TBI Awareness month, every year. Between 2021 and 2023, the theme of this traumatic brain injury month is a compaign to show that TBI victims are more than the sum of their condition. (Look out for, or contribute to, the #MoreThanMyBrainInjury hashtag if you want to get involved.)
For facts about traumatic brain injury or support, the Michael Hutchence Foundation website has information on symptoms, raises awareness and provides support to those affected.
Some of Michael’s closest friends have also become involved, including the incredible Richard Lowenstein, to whom we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude. His moving, powerful and insightful Michael Hutchence documentary has already helped to spread the word about what sustaining a TBI can really mean.
Thanks to The Michael Hutchence Foundation
Tina Hutchence also deserves a special mention – without the singer’s beloved ‘sweet sister T’ (this is a lyric from INXS’s Just a Man) there would be no Michael Hutchence Foundation. And traumatic brain injury awareness month would be all the poorer for that.
Her book Michael: My Brother, Lost Boy of INXS is also a great read for fans or anyone who wants to know more about the real-life effects of a TBI.
Let’s hope the future brings more awareness of TBIs among the general population, as well as improved understanding and support for all victims and those around them.
You can find TBI information and support at: https://www.themichaelhutchencefoundation.org/
There’s more on national brain injury awareness month here:
In memory of Michael Kelland John Hutchence, 22nd January 1960 – 22nd November 1997
- What became of Michael Hutchence?
- A Michael Hutchence fan’s story
- 10 tracks about Michael Hutchence
- Soundbites from Michael Hutchence
- Mystify documentary review
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