Laura Sandys writes as an Epilepsy sufferer and chair of the APPG in parliament. The disease affects more than half a million people in the UK.
As a person with epilepsy, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group and Vice President of a national epilepsy charity, I believe it’s important to raise awareness of this condition. There are many concerns around this, and one of the focuses of National Epilepsy Week is to address the discrimination some people face daily. In the 21st century we cannot have a condition like epilepsy attracting so much stigma; it is the most common neurological condition in the UK, and affects more than half a million people. Sadly too many people experience exclusion and bullying because of the condition.
There are still many myths about epilepsy and how it affects people. Fear and ignorance has meant that some people with epilepsy have faced discrimination and been treated unfairly, not always out of malice. They have been unnecessarily prevented from taking part in events, activities and accessing services, ranging from sports to beauty therapies. People have also been needlessly stopped from taking part in activities by employers and being singled out by schools that do not understand their condition or take time to find out about it.
Some of these issues may sound trivial to people who have not faced this kind of discrimination, but epilepsy is a very social condition. For some people, seizures are not the worst thing about their condition. Not being able to drive, being turned down for a job or not being treated equally can have the greatest impact. As a society we do not stand for this type of discrimination in other medical conditions, and people with epilepsy should not stand for it either.
This shows why it’s so important to tackle the myths about epilepsy, pass on the correct information and challenge the misconceptions about the condition. A little bit of the correct advice can have a big effect, and I hope everyone will take some time this National Epilepsy Week to find out more about epilepsy.
Laura SandysMember of Parliament for South ThanetChair of the APPG for Epilepsy