The Lancet published the following article.

Volume 385, No. 9967, p482, 7 February 2015

A voice for people with epilepsy

Feb 9, 2015, will be the first International Epilepsy Day—a collaborative effort between The International Bureau of Epilepsy (IBE) and the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) to raise awareness and encourage discussion about epilepsy. Such efforts are urgently needed—more than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, more than 75% of whom live in low-income countries. In 2013, 119 000 deaths worldwide were attributable to epilepsy, and only one other disorder (HIV infection) has greater disability weight than uncontrolled, severe epilepsy.

What causes this high burden? 40% of patients in high-income countries and more than 70% of patients in developing countries do not get the treatment they need, because of the high expense or low availability of appropriate drugs. Additionally, epilepsy is still a stigmatised disease—false beliefs that people with epilepsy are disabled or mentally ill are common. In developing countries, the stigmas can be even more profound because epilepsy is thought to be contagious and associated with witchcraft; many people avoid touching patients during seizures, when simple forms of care could prevent dangerous situations. Opportunities for marriage and employment are also severely reduced in countries such as China and India for people with epilepsy, leading to their societal exclusion.

These facts should call our attention to the hardships faced by people with epilepsy. Emilio Perucca, president-elect of the ILAE, says “the establishment of International Epilepsy Day is synergic with the first WHO resolution on epilepsy. The resolution calls for coordinated global action to improve epilepsy care and to protect the civil rights of people with epilepsy”.

Athanasios Covanis, IBE president states: “International Epilepsy Day will lend a voice to the millions of people around the world who have epilepsy. This disease can have devastating consequences but their stories show how bravery can triumph over adversity.” International Epilepsy Day will provide a welcome platform for people with epilepsy to share their experiences.