[Chloe Burrowes | Contributing Writer]
If you were asked what one of the most common neurological conditions was, epilepsy probably wouldn’t be one of your first thoughts. Despite affecting one in 100 people, this illness does not dominate headlines. In November, America celebrates a National Epilepsy Awareness Month aiming to create noise and awareness for new and old sufferers, yet in the United Kingdom we don’t mark this. Only a week in May and a day in March; but is this really enough for a condition that affects so many?
Gemma Marshall, a former sufferer in childhood, explains why she thinks a month like this is so vital: “Personally, I think epilepsy is a bit forgotten, you don’t see it anywhere. I feel like it’s not advertised very well. I think a month here in England like the month for cancer would be helpful, maybe selling a badge or something like the pink ribbon.”
Underfunding and a lack of celebrity recognition can sometimes be seen as the key to lack of awareness. Celebrities suffering from other illnesses are much more vocal, for example TOWIE star Sam Faiers with Crohns Disease, but you would struggle to find promotion through celebrity epilepsy awareness.
“It is one of the last taboos with people unwilling to talk about it and celebrities reticent to admit to having epilepsy because of the perceived stigma,” said Deborah Pullen of Epilepsy Research UK.
Encouraging epilepsy charities to face this head on is the recent research from the Epilepsy Society into public understanding. With 1% of the people questioned stating that epilepsy was caused by evil spirits and is also contagious, it is clear that we have problem!
Angie King of Epilepsy Society also described some events in the public eye aiming to dispel these myths, for example a new Coronation Street storyline and using the hashtag #StopEpilepsyStigma so sufferers and non-sufferers alike can see epilepsy being discussed in the public sphere.
Although more needs to be done awareness is progressing is the right direction. Purple Day is on the 26th March and is the next major international event. But who knows, maybe next year will be our time for an awareness month.