Monday, 23 February 2015

Epilepsy Misunderstood

In the 21st century, ancient myths about people with epilepsy are still believed. Most of the people affected are "normally intelligent" and can - or could - be integrated into the workplace easily. In addition, it is a neurological disorder that in many cases can be treated. Nevertheless, people with epilepsy are likely to be discriminated against. According to an Austrian survey among 2000 persons, 80.4% of Austrians are in favour of integrating children with epilepsy in school; in the Western neighbouring countries it is 90%. Only 47.8% would not mind their child marrying a person with epilepsy.

Comparing Austria with Switzerland is rather interesting ... and saddening. While in Switzerland about 4% believe that epilepsy is "a mental illness", in Austria the percentage rises to 10%. In Switzerland, only 2% of parents are concerned about their children playing with children who suffer from epilepsy; in Austria 11%.  In Switzerland, 5% of parents are strictly against their children marrying a person with epilepsy; in Austria 14%. A great many people still label the neurological disorder as "a mental illness". Particularly very young and elderly people have this perception. Among those over 70 years, one in five believe it to be a mental illness.
According to international studies, 0.5 to 0.8% of the population is affected by the neurological disorder. Translating percentages into figures means that in Austria between 35.000 and 70.000 persons are affected (via).
And Richard Burton? On Wikipedia, it can be read that he had "alcohol withdrawal seizures" which resembled epileptic seizures (via). According to other sources, he was said to equate epilepsy with madness and to have "cured" epilepsy with drink. However, since he did not really trust doctors and avoided them, there is no official diagnosis (via).

photographs of Richard Burton (1925-1984) and Ava Gardner (1922-1990) via and via