Stop Stigmatisation of People with Epilepsy, Expert Tells Nigerians

Martins Ifijeh
A Consultant Neurologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Dr. Agabi Osigwe, has called on Nigerians to stop all forms of stigmatisation and discrimination of persons living with epilepsy in the country.
He said while stigmatisation is often associated with poor knowledge of the condition, the effect it has on the victim is far more difficult to overcome than the seizures that come with epilepsy.
Speaking at the official launch of the Samuel Olafemiwa Oladehin Foundation (SOOF) and the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the death of Pa Samuel Olafemiwa Oladehin in Lagos recently, he said, “epilepsy is a widely recognised health condition but one that is poorly understood even among people who know someone with the disorder. Lack of knowledge about the causes of epilepsy has been associated with negative attitudes and beliefs.
“The stigma of the disorder can discourage people from seeking treatment for symptoms, so as to avoid being identified with the disorder,” adding that, “this stigma is a devastating burden to people with epilepsy and their families. The combination of poverty, limited healthcare, societal conceptualisation of epilepsy and traditional beliefs, coalesce to nurture the stigma associated with epilepsy,” he said.
The neurologist explained that it is a chronic non-communicable disease of the brain that affects all ages, but peaks at childhood and after age 55 years noting that it is more prevalent in males (52 per cent) than females (48 per cent).
He said myths associated with the diseases have been the major reason why most persons with the disease do not access treatment. “Among the myths are that it is contagious, it is caused by evil spirits, people with epilepsy cannot do anything meaningful.”
But he said the disease was not contagious, as it cannot be passed from one person to another. He said nothing should be forced on the mouth of someone having a seizure, adding that this could cause injuries or even broken jaw. “It is not caused by demons. It is a brain disease and treatment is key to mitigating the effect,” he added.
On his part, the Chairman, Board of Trustees, SOOF, Mr. Adetola Akinsulire, said the Foundation was established in memory of a dear sister Olayemi Omobolanle Oladehin who died five years ago from the complications of epilepsy. Olayemi was the daughter of Pa Oladehin.
He said Pa Oladehin died at the age of 76 on March 6, 2007 with one big sore in his heart: “He never found a solution to that ailment that afflicted his beloved daughter, Olayemi.
“Yemi, as she was popularly called, became epileptic at the age of 10. The impact of her affliction on the family is a story to be told on another day.  Looking back today, the outcomes could have been different, if we knew then what we know today.  Sadly, Olayemi died on the 20th April 2012 – five days short of her first year wedding anniversary. She died at a faith-based camp ground at the age of 43.
“On our part, we shall use the Foundation to address stigmatisation, provide research support, provide guidance and social integration to sufferers, create fora for experience sharing, among others,” he added.