International Epilepsy Day is a special awareness day that takes place on the second Monday in February to shine a light on the challenges faced by people living with epilepsy. It takes place on February 13 this year. Epilepsy, also known as seizure disorder, is the fourth most common neurological disorder and one of the oldest-known medical conditions. The condition causes electrical activity in the brain to stop for a short time, which leads to recurrent seizures. Even though 65 million people in the world live with epilepsy, there is still some stigma around the disease. International Epilepsy Day exists to educate the general public about epilepsy and to teach people how to provide better care for people living with the disorder.
History of International Epilepsy Day
International Epilepsy Day is the brainchild of the International Bureau for Epilepsy and the International League Against Epilepsy. The two organizations have put together various events on the day since its inception.
Almost every year, a theme is chosen to guide the events of the day. In 2018, the theme was ‘This is Me,’ in 2016, it was ‘Yes, I can!’ and in 2017, it was ‘Putting Epilepsy in the Picture.’ In 2015, there was no official theme because it was the first occurrence of the holiday. There was also no theme chosen in 2019.
Epilepsy is one of the world’s oldest-known medical conditions, with records dating back to the beginning of recorded history. Of course, back then, it was treated as a spiritual condition. In 2000 B.C., an ancient Mesopotamian text described a person who underwent an exorcism under the influence of a moon god. Ancient Babylonians attributed seizures to possession by evil spirits. The ancient Greeks also considered epilepsy to be spiritual possession, but they associated it with genius and divine interventions.
The stigma associated with epilepsy is also historical. In ancient Rome, people did not eat or drink from the same plates or pots as people living with epilepsy. Up to the second half of the 20th century, in some parts of Africa, epilepsy was believed to be contagious and a result of possession, witchcraft, or poisoning.
Epilepsy is such a part of documented history that it is mentioned in the “Code of Hammurabi,” the longest, best-organized, and best-preserved legal text from the ancient Near East. In the Code, it is referred to as a condition under which a slave may be returned for a refund. Epilepsy also gets a mention in an ancient Egyptian medical text called “The Edwin Smith Papyrus.”
Today, International Epilepsy Day is commemorated in more than 120 countries all over the world.
International Epilepsy Day timeline
The oldest detailed record of epilepsy is found in a Babylonian cuneiform medical text called the “Sakikku.”
At a time when most people treated epilepsy as being spiritual, Hippocrates insists that it is a medically treatable problem originating in the brain.
An antiepileptic medication, bromide, is used effectively for the first time.
Dr. Robert Fisher, leader of the International League Against Epilepsy taskforce, publishes a new definition of the disease in an editorial called “A Revised Definition of Epilepsy.”
International Epilepsy Day FAQs
When is National Epilepsy Day?
In the U.S., Epilepsy Awareness Day is commemorated on March 26. The goals of this day are similar to those of International Epilepsy Day.
Why is purple the color of epilepsy?
Purple is the official awareness color of epilepsy because it is the color of the international flower of epilepsy, lavender. The color was selected in 2008, by Cassidy Megan, a young girl from Canada who suffered from epilepsy.
Why do we celebrate International Epilepsy Day?
The purpose of this day is to heighten awareness, remove the stigma around the condition and create a platform for people to talk about their experiences.
How to Observe International Epilepsy Day
Attend an event
Hundreds of events take place all around the world. You can use the hashtag #InternationalEpilepsyDay to find an event close to you, where you can get some much-needed information about the disease from experts and listen to people living with epilepsy share their experiences
You can donate money to the Epilepsy Foundation on International Epilepsy Day. This money will accelerate therapies for seizures and maybe fund research to finally find a cure for epilepsy.
Purple is the official awareness color of epilepsy, so you can add a splash of the color to your outfit on International Epilepsy Day. You can dye your hair purple, use some purple nail polish or wear a purple tie — the point is to have some purple somewhere on your body.
5 Little-Known Facts About Epilepsy
Until 1971, epilepsy was considered grounds for the annulment of marriage in the United States.
It can hinder driving
People living with epilepsy are at twice the risk of being involved in a motor vehicular collision and in some countries, a person must be free from seizures for up to three years before they can be allowed to drive.
Not all seizures involve jerking
During seizures, some people simply wander around, and appear vacant and confused.
It has a patron saint
Saint Valentine is recognized in the Christian world as the patron saint of people living with epilepsy
Prince had it
The popular musician, Prince, is just one of many celebrities and public figures who suffered from epilepsy
Why International Epilepsy Day is Important
It breaks a culture of silence
When people speak about epilepsy, it is often in hushed tones, as if talking about the disease out loud would summon a seizure. This culture of silence means that there is a lack of information and a lot of misinformation about the disease. International Epilepsy Day works to erase the stigma surrounding epilepsy and provide some helpful information about it.
Too many people die of epilepsy
Every year, more than one in 1,000 people die suddenly due to epilepsy. Part of this is because, in many countries, they do not receive appropriate treatment because people, even medical professionals, do not have enough information about how to treat the disease.
It allows people to find a community
People living with epilepsy can often feel alone or alienated in their experiences. International Epilepsy Day helps them find a community of people like them who can understand their experiences and provide support for them.
International Epilepsy Day dates