Epilepsy is more common than most people think, and it manifests in different ways. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month – your chance to find out more about this misunderstood condition.
In Australia, around 250,000 people – including children and young people – are currently living with epilepsy. Hundreds of thousands more will develop epilepsy during their lifetime.
“It’s a significant condition considering not many people know about it,” said Freya Enright, Marketing Co-ordinator at Epilepsy Action Australia (EAA).
“There’s actually 40 different kinds of epilepsy. It’s one of the most common neurological conditions, even more prevalent than Parkinson’s Disease.”
“There’s a lot of myth surrounding epilepsy. It’s not contagious, that was always one of them. A long time ago people used to think it was due to witchcraft. It’s still going on in the present day, some still have that belief.”
Enright said that most people don’t understand that there’s more than one type of seizure. The symptoms present in different ways for each person.
Epilepsy Awareness Month has been running since the late 1960s, with events being held around the world each year. This year EAA has launched their E-Tea campaign to help raise public awareness about the condition and raise funds for those living with the disease.
“We’re encouraging people to gather friends and communities to come together and host their own E-Tea event and fundraise whilst also sharing delicious treats and having fun,” Enright said.
Those interested in taking part can go online at epilepsy.org.au and look for the E-Tea banner. You can sign up and register your event and the organisation will send you any information that you might need to hold the event.
Funds raised will go towards EAA’s many initiatives, including their free National Epilepsy Hotline which provides access to advice from registered nurses 7 days a week, 9 to 5pm.
Enright said that the hotline has been particularly important this year, as during lockdown a lot of people weren’t able to see a neurologist or get to the doctor.
“Some people have multiple seizures each day” Enright said. “So they need the additional help and support, and for mental health as well.”
The organisation also runs education courses, including the Seizure Smart School program. They support numerous research projects, investigating new medications and clinical trials to find the best outcomes for those living with the condition.
Sarah Jacob is a journalist and editor and is currently The Advocate's Deputy Editor. She has written for a range of print and online publications across Australia and internationally with a focus on the environment and human rights. Previously she worked in conservation science and protected area management, and has completed postgraduate degrees in journalism and marine science.