March is Epilepsy Awareness Month

Date: May 25, 2006

TORONTO – January 2006 marked the 50th anniversary of Epilepsy Ontario’s ongoing efforts as an incorporated health charity. March is epilepsy awareness month and Epilepsy Ontario hopes to encourage people to acknowledge and understand the disorder and support the fight against the misconceptions, discrimination and isolation facing those who live with epilepsy.

One of the biggest challenges confronting people who live with epilepsy is rooted in the myths and misconceptions about the disorder. Epilepsy is not a disease or a psychological disorder, but rather a seizure disorder caused by sudden bursts of electrical energy in the brain. Long ago, it was believed that epileptic seizures were caused by demonic possession, which resulted in severe prejudice and isolation of those living with the disorder. Although that mentality is no longer prevalent, there still exists a vast amount of misunderstanding and ignorance associated with epilepsy. In conjunction with the 50th anniversary, epilepsy awareness month and the Lavender Ribbon Campaign, Epilepsy Ontario is working to eliminate these falsehoods and replace them with understanding.

It is estimated that approximately 300,000 Canadians have epilepsy and 1 to 2 per cent of the population have experienced or will at some point in their life experience an epileptic seizure. That is twice as many as people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis combined. Yet epilepsy is still the least funded neurological disorder. The severity and frequency of the seizures varies from person to person, but the social implications are consistent throughout. Children are often teased while independent and able adults are treated as incompetent and incapable.

March is the month to raise epilepsy awareness. Changing attitudes will help encourage the public funding needed to support specialized centres, surgical training and uniform access to care for those affected by the disorder.

Visit your local epilepsy agency for information about the organization, donations or how to get a lavender ribbon.

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