Epilepsy is more common than many people realize. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy — making it the most common neurological disorder globally. Many historical figures are believed to have had epilepsy, including Theodore Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Vincent van Gogh, and Charles Dickens.
In spite of its prevalence, myths and misconceptions around epilepsy still persist. National Epilepsy Month, which is celebrated every November, aims to educate the public, reduce stigma surrounding epilepsy, and promote understanding and empathy for individuals living with this condition.
In this article, we’ll share a definition of epilepsy, how November came to be National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and some ways that you can participate in this event.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent and unpredictable seizures. These seizures result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can vary in type and severity, affecting consciousness, behavior, and motor control.
Contrary to what is often portrayed on TV, not everyone with epilepsy falls to the ground and shakes. Some types of seizures may cause dramatic convulsions, but others can manifest as brief staring spells or repetitive movements like lip smacking or fidgeting. People with these less obvious seizure types may face challenges in receiving appropriate support and understanding from others, including colleagues, friends, and teachers.
Educating the public about the different forms of epilepsy — and especially some of the less dramatic types of seizures — is crucial to improve awareness, reduce stigma, and ensure that all individuals with epilepsy receive the necessary care and support they need. One way to achieve this is through National Epilepsy Awareness Month.
Since it was established in 1969, National Epilepsy Awareness Month has seen several big wins for the epilepsy community. Training in seizure first aid has become more widespread, ensuring a safer environment for individuals with epilepsy. Advocacy efforts have contributed to increased funding for epilepsy research, which has led to significant progress in treatment options. Additionally, innovative tools like wearable devices, mobile apps, and seizure prediction technologies are all becoming more accessible, empowering individuals with more personalized and effective approaches to manage their condition.
Each year presents new opportunities for continued progress and understanding in supporting those affected by epilepsy. Here are five ways to participate in Epilepsy Awareness Month this year:
Purple isn’t just the color of changing leaves — it’s also the color associated with epilepsy awareness. By wearing purple clothing or accessories, you can draw attention to the cause this November. When people see you wearing a purple ribbon or bracelet, it may prompt questions or spark a conversation about epilepsy and the need for support and understanding for individuals and families affected by this condition.
Even if you know CPR and general first aid, now is a good time to look into seizure first aid training. During seizure first aid training, you’ll learn about different types of seizures, what to do if you encounter someone having a seizure, and when to seek emergency medical assistance. This training is crucial for various settings, including schools, workplaces, and community centers, as it empowers you to recognize and respond appropriately to ensure the safety of individuals with epilepsy.
For some, November is a time of Thanksgiving and reflection. But for politicians, November corresponds to many critical or high-profile elections. This means that state legislators, city council members, mayors, school board officials, and other local positions may be up for re-election in November, and there might be opportunities to advocate for policy changes or garner support for specific causes. Now is a good time to reach out to local policymakers to advocate for improved healthcare, access to treatments, and funding for epilepsy research.
As National Epilepsy Awareness Month coincides with the back-to-school season, it is an opportune time to rally support for the Seizure Safe Schools initiative. The initiative aims to ensure that schools are equipped with the tools and training to support students living with seizures, and 23 states have already passed legislation to address epilepsy in schools. By pushing for similar measures in other states or at a national level, we can create safe and supportive learning environments for students with epilepsy.
GivingTuesday, which falls on November 28, is a day to come together and make a positive impact on the causes and communities we care about. This GivingTuesday, consider making a donation to reputable epilepsy organizations or charities like the National Epilepsy Foundation. Your donation can make a significant impact on their work to raise awareness, support research, and provide resources for individuals with epilepsy and their families.
If you’re not able to contribute financially, you can also offer your time and skills to local epilepsy organizations or support groups. Volunteering can involve assisting with fundraising events, educational programs, or outreach efforts.
While November is recognized as National Epilepsy Awareness Month, awareness and advocacy efforts are ongoing throughout the year. For more disability-related events and observances you can participate in all year round, download our free Disability Events Calendar.
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