By: Stephanie Tuminello
In a society as seemingly advanced as ours, it can sometimes take us by surprise that stigma and prejudice still exist. But ignorance propagates stigma, and this is especially the case in epilepsy. Thus the best way to combat this stigma is through education and awareness.
From a social worker’s perspective, the best way to do this is by providing information and training programs with educational materials. Social work is needed in institutions such as schools, even daycares, as there have been cases where children have been turned away because they institutions have claimed they did not have the “proper equipment” to handle epileptic children.
There needs to be more education on a governmental level as well. Up until 1956 there were states which would not legally allow epileptic people to marry (1970 in the UK). In Sweden there were actually eugenic sterilization programs all the way up until 1975! Thankfully things have come a long way, with the help of agencies and programs such as The Global Campaign Against Epilepsy of the World Health Organization and other Epilepsy Associations.
Epilepsy also needs to be more prominent in the media. Other, less common conditions have celebrities who speak out against the stigma associated with them, such as Ronald Reagan, who speaks for Alzheimer’s and Micheal J. Fox, who speaks for Parkinsons. Only recently has any one of public interest come forward to speak out against epilepsy stigma. Greg Grunbery, of the t.v. show “Heros” has become an epilepsy advocate in honor of his son Jake and his struggles.
Lastly, people struggling with epilepsy most often benefit through education of their illness. One young man had the experience that after educating his classmates about his condition, what it was and what could be done during a seizure, that his classmates were genuinely concerned and sought to be supportive.
Therefore, in conclusion, there has been great progress with eliminating epilepsy stigma but there is still a long way to go. The best means is through education on multiple fronts, for when you eliminate the ignorance behind it you consequently eliminate the stigma.
Andrew N. Wilner. Epilepsy in 2010- Does Stigma Still Exist? Medscape. Jul 29, 2010