Call to tackle epilepsy stigma

Neurological organisations need to come together to change attitudes towards epilepsy, a charity has claimed.

The Epilepsy Society is calling on charities within the neurological sector to join forces and make a public stand to tackle stigma after research showed public awareness of the condition has barely changed over the last 10 years.

Around one in five people would try to restrain someone during an epileptic seizure and 2% still believe epilepsy is contagious, according to a survey commissioned by the charity.

The Epilepsy Society first ran a public attitudes survey in 2003. It described the findings of its most recent survey as “extremely disappointing”.

Spokesperson Amanda Cleaver said: “Greater public awareness of epilepsy is one of the biggest issues for people living with the condition. Busting the myths and misconceptions will help banish the stigma people with epilepsy often experience.

“Even today a quarter of people would see putting something in a person’s mouth to stop them swallowing their tongue as an appropriate response to seeing someone having a seizure in the street.

“More people than ever before would call an ambulance – 89% compared to 77% 10 years ago. Calling an ambulance isn’t always necessary and is expensive. An emergency and unnecessary admission to hospital costs around £1,000.

“The survey findings 10 years on are extremely disappointing.”

Around one in 100 people in the UK has epilepsy and it can affect anyone of any age, at any time in their life.

Epilepsy Society chief executive Graham Faulkner said: “It’s time to tackle public awareness head on, combat stigma and improve the lives of everyone affected by neurological conditions – not just epilepsy.

“We have several partners in the field of neurology and stigma seems to be an issue which is common to us all. By taking a ‘pan- neurology’ approach I believe we can make a significant impact and change attitudes once and for all.

“I think we have a lot to learn from the mental health charities who have been working together on this one issue and have achieved remarkable results.”