Recently, VirTra’s “Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach” training was nationally-certified through IADLEST’s NCP program. This unique V-VICTA curriculum contains 15 hours of nationally-certified training material that contains 10 lessons, an in-depth instructor booklet and corresponding training slides.

One of the topics covered in this Mental Illness training for law enforcement is Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI. While this may seem out of place in the Mental Illness curriculum, TBI is in fact a big risk factor for conditions such as neurocognitive disorders, substance abuse and more.

About TBI

Simply put, TBI is caused by a sudden injury to the head that causes damage to the brain. This can be classified as one of two injuries: closed head or penetrating injury. These are fairly self-explanatory; closed head injuries are caused by a blow bump or jolt to the head while penetrating injuries are caused by an object penetrating the head.

Since the definition is wide, TBI can be sustained in many places and among any age group. This includes head trauma caused during intense sports such as football or soccer, falling, active duty combat or car accidents. Penetrating injuries are more intense and caused by more extreme actions, such as shrapnel, being hit by weapons such as hammers or baseball bats, or other injuries powerful enough to cause bone fragments to penetrate the skull.

Symptoms of TBI

TBI symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the injury and degree of severity. A good example of mild TBI are concussions, which many people have experienced and recovered from. However, the more intense forms and symptoms of TBI include serious physical and psychological symptoms, comas or even death.

Symptoms of Mild TBI: These include brief loss of consciousness, headaches, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision and trouble with memory, concentration, attention and thinking.

Symptoms of Severe TBI: Just as the cause is more severe, so are the symptoms. Officers can look for: worsening headaches, repeated nausea and/or vomiting, larger pupil(s), slurred speech, loss of coordination, weakness and/or numbness and increased confusion, restlessness and agitation.

Officer Training of TBI

As an officer, you cannot diagnose a subject with TBI or any other mental illness unless you have the proper training and credentials. Instead of teaching officers to diagnose, VirTra’s Mental Illness curriculum is designed to teach officers how to recognize a variety of potential mentally ill subjects, the best forms of interaction and how to maximize officer and subject safety.

Through these 15 certified hours and corresponding real-life scenarios, officers learn appropriate verbalization techniques, can demonstrate they recognize the different behaviors displayed and how to implement the best response through every step of the interaction. Learn more about our Mental Illness training here or view the list of V-VICTA law enforcement curriculum here.

If your department could benefit from our Mental Illness curriculum, contact a VirTra specialist today.


“Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 July 2020,


You may think Traumatic Brain Injury seems out of place as a topic in VirTra’s Mental Illness V-VICTA™ curriculum , but it is actually a big risk factor for conditions such as neurocognitive disorders, substance abuse and more. Traumatic Brain Injuries, commonly shortened to “TBI,” can be life threatening on their own and are a condition that officers must be aware of.

What is a TBI?

A TBI is caused by a jolt to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal function of the brain. Depending on the severity of the injury, an individual may experience a brief change in mental status to an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia.

TBI can be caused by head trauma sustained during sports such as football or baseball, falling (especially in young children and the elderly), and active duty combat. It is diagnosed with thorough clinical and physical exams along with review of their cognitive ability before and after the event.
What are the after-effects?

Some after-effects include post-concussion syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Post-concussion syndrome occurs when concussion symptoms last much longer than usual – months or even years following the trauma. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disorder that is only diagnosed after death, but results from repetitive injury to the brain.

Signs, Symptoms & Behaviors

TBI symptoms can appear as physical, cognitive and emotional issues. Some of these include:

Physical: headaches, dizziness, sleep problems, fatigue, light sensitivity
Cognitive: difficulty concentrating, gaps in memory, slowed thinking, difficulty finding words
Emotional: Irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, personality changes

If the TBI includes frontal lobe injuries, the subject may experience aggression and difficulty controlling impulses and inhibition. There is a link between TBI and criminal activity that shows 60.3% of adults who have committed a crime have screened positive for TBI (2014).

An individual with TBI can have varying behaviors. The kind that law enforcement usually responds to are associated with aggression and impulse control. If the signs and symptoms are not recognized during interaction, they can impede proper communication.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Surveillance Report of Traumatic Brain Injury-related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths—United States, 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders. (2015). Traumatic Brain Injury: Hope Through Research. NINDS, Publication date September 2015. NIH Publication No. 15-2478
  3. Kocka, A., & Gagnon, J. (2014). Definition of Impulsivity and Related Terms Following Traumatic Brain Injury: A Review of the Different Concepts and Measures Used to Assess Impulsivity, Disinhibition and other Related Concepts. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 4(4), 352–370.