Epilepsy Stigma

31 January 2012
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"The history of epilepsy can be summarised as 4.000 years of ignorance, superstition and stigma, followed by 100 years of knowledge, superstition and stigma" Kale R. Bringing epilepsy out of the shadows. BMJ. 1997; 315:2-3

The stigmatisation of people with epilepsy dates back thousands of years. To be stigmatised is to be regarded as having different characteristics from the ones which are accepted in society and to be treated differently by the community.

Stigma is one of the most important factors that have a negative influence on people with epilepsy. Despite the fact that epilepsy is the most common serious neurological condition in Ireland, public awareness and understanding of the condition remains poor and negative attitudes towards epilepsy are a major hurdle 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.

So let's debunk some of the more common myths straight away...

  • Epilepsy is not a mental illness
  • Epilepsy is not contagious
  • People with epilepsy CAN drive a car, work, play sports and have a family
  • You CANNOT stop a seizure so do not restrain a person or put anything in their mouth.

Epilepsy Ireland's message is simple:
Having epilepsy doesn't make you different to anyone else. People with epilepsy can live as full and active a life in terms of work, education, activities, social and family life.

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