General News Stigma Reduction — 27 March 2014

The stigma surrounding epilepsy is leading to increased rates of depression and anxiety amongst sufferers, experts say.

And they’re calling on the public to use an international day for epilepsy awareness to reconsider how they view the disease.

Wednesday’s Purple Day was started in 2008 by a nine-year-old Canadian girl who felt isolated by the disease.

It has since snowballed into an international event.bigstock-Teens-Problems-5584580

An Epilepsy Foundation survey of 300 adult sufferers in Australia, released to coincide with Purple Day, found 46.9 per cent of people with epilepsy suffered from anxiety.

That’s more than three times the rate of the general population.

The principal author behind the research, Dr Chris Peterson, said stigma was the most important factor influencing levels of anxiety and depression in epilepsy sufferers.

A person’s employment status, education level, medication and control over symptoms also contributed.

“There were fewer occurrences of anxiety and depression among survey participants in paid employment,” he said.

“Having no control over seizures increased the participants’ depression levels by 14 per cent and anxiety levels by more than 25.7 per cent.”

Men with epilepsy were more likely to suffer anxiety than women with 34.2 per cent of male participants suffering depression compared with 24.8 per cent of women, the research found.

Epilepsy Society of Australia President Dr Dan McLaughlin says “most people with epilepsy live a healthy life, but are sometimes impaired by how other people think about the illness”.

“People treat them differently. They fear they will not know what to do if they have a seizure,” he told AAP.

He said the most important thing is not to panic and help the person to the floor or another safe place.

Once the seizure was over, the person should be put into the recovery position and monitored.

Epilepsy affects one in 25 Australians and one in 10 will experience a seizure in their lifetime.

This article first appeared on the Herald Sun on 26 March, 2014.


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