Epilepsy is a physical condition characterised by unusual electricity in the brain. It is a symptom of a neurological disorder and shows itself in the form of seizures. Epilepsy is the tendency to have recurrent, unprovoked seizures and seizures are caused by a temporal change in the way the brain cells (neurons) work. Epilepsy is neither a disorder, not a disease, illness, psychiatric disorder nor a mental illness; and it is not contagious. Epilepsy affects all people, sexes, all ages, and all races, people of all levels of intelligence and of all social backgrounds. Most people with epilepsy are diagnosed before age 20, but the onset can be at any age. Many children with epilepsy do outgrow it and are able to live drug-free and seizure-free as adult.
As seizures are mostly unpredictable they may cause a disruption or interruption of the persons daily routines. Many people who have epilepsy however state that the actual seizures do not impact negatively on their lives, but that it is the ignorance, stigmatization, discrimination and lack of knowledge of society that impact very negatively on their lives. Due to the fact that society does not understand what epilepsy is and people often fear the condition, they discriminate against people with epilepsy, such as not allowing them to participate in social events, careers, etc. this entails people with epilepsy turn to be discriminated in the workplace, after having declared their status some may be demoted even though they are highly qualified for their jobs.
The same often happens to children who have epilepsy and they experience discrimination at schools, within sports or amongst their friends. This can severely affect a childs self esteem and should therefore be immediately addressed. Parents often find it very difficult to accept the diagnosis of epilepsy in a child. Parents tend to experience a grieving process and may need assistance and counselling during this time. It is important to know that persons with epilepsy, both adults and children, can live active and normal lives, as long as society is willing to accept and learn more about epilepsy. An alarming factor is the fact that the prevalence of epilepsy in the developing countries such as Swaziland is increasing steadily more especially in children.
Swaziland Epilepsy Organisation saw the above issues and the need to address them urgently. Therefore they created a project to promote awareness on epilepsy issues mainly on literacy and epilepsy care. The project also seeks to strengthen the capability of community based volunteers (bagcugcuteli), teachers, and religious leaders on tackling epileptic issues.
For more information, click here to download the Report on Community Awareness Campaign on Epilepsy Care conducted in Swaziland from 3rd November 2008 until 11th February 2009.