11-02-2013 | Survey finds stigma and lack of understanding persists for 37,000 people with epilepsy

10 February 2013
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1 in 5 people in Ireland would not employ someone with epilepsy

Stigma and lack of understanding persists for 37,000 people with epilepsy

On European Epilepsy Day today, Epilepsy Ireland released results of national consumer research conducted in January 2013 which show that nearly 20% of people if given the choice would not employ someone with epilepsy. 45% of people said they knew someone with epilepsy and 50% of them admitted there is still a stigma amongst the public attached to the condition.

Epilepsy is characterized by a tendency to have recurring seizures. It is estimated that about 1 in 20 people will have a single seizure at some time in their lives and research has found that 1 in every 115 people in Ireland or 37,000 people over the age of five years have a diagnosis of epilepsy.

Speaking about the stigma associated with epilepsy and employment, Peter Murphy, Deputy CEO Epilepsy Ireland said "Despite the fact that epilepsy is the most common serious neurological condition in Ireland and even though there have been significant advances in treatment, public awareness and understanding of the condition remains poor and negative attitudes towards epilepsy are a major challenge for many people living with the condition. In fact, myths, misconceptions, fear and discrimination still surround epilepsy, often causing more distress than the condition itself and having a huge impact on people's quality of life. Epilepsy is not contagious and people with epilepsy can work successfully, have a family, drive, play sports and make the same positive contribution to society as we all do."

With regard to peoples' behavior when they witness someone falling to the ground and having a seizure, the consumer survey of 1000+ people aged 18 years and over further showed that;

  • 38% of people surveyed have witnessed someone having a seizure but only 43% of them said they know what to do when someone is having a seizure
  • 18% of people said they would try and restrain a person's movement when having a seizure believing it will help stop the seizure (when in fact you should do nothing but make the person comfortable lying down, put something soft under their head and put them in the recovery position when the seizure ends. You should only move the person if they are in a dangerous place like a road or beside a fire)
  • Over half of respondents would place something in a person's mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue if they were having a seizure (when in fact the correct action is to not to put anything into the mouth)
  • 59% of people thought that you should call for an ambulance for all seizures (when in fact the correct action is to only call an ambulance if you know it is the person's first seizure, if the seizure continues for more than five minutes, if one seizure follows another without the person regaining awareness between the seizures, if the person is injured during the seizure or if you believe the person needs urgent medical attention)
  • 10% of respondents said they either would not stay with or would be unsure about staying with a person until the seizure was over (when in fact the correct action is always to stay with the person)

Commenting on lack of awareness of how to help someone with a seizure, Sinead Murphy, Community Epilepsy Nurse Specialist, Epilepsy Ireland said "You cannot stop someone having a seizure but we all have a duty to know what to do when you witness someone you know or not, having a seizure. These research findings show a lack of understanding on how to assist someone and in some cases this lack of understanding could put the person having the seizure in danger. Our understanding of how to assist someone having a stroke has been enhanced by the recent FAST campaign. Let's increase public understanding of how to assist someone having a seizure. Our epilepsy.ie site has all the information."

For full details of the survey findings, see the Be Seizure Aware section of our website

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