Unjustified stigma has unacceptable impact on those with epilepsy

Note: This article is first published on https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-on-the-web/unjustified-stigma-has-unacceptable-impact-on-those-with-epilepsy

A productive and satisfying work life is important to a person’s overall quality of life and self-esteem (Time to commit to national target on inclusive employment, July 6).

Epilepsy is a brain disease characterised by abnormal brain activity causing seizures or unusual behaviour, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness. It is one of the most common neurological diseases worldwide, affecting around 50 million people of all ages around the world.

Being diagnosed with epilepsy can cause considerable social damage, and a person loses many privileges.

Some losses, such as not being able to obtain a driving licence, are legally mandated and are defensible on safety grounds. Others are less justifiable and have broader implications.

Life insurance becomes more difficult to secure, and health insurance is often more expensive. Marital choices narrow and employment opportunities become more limited.

Most people with epilepsy can be productively employed, but the greatest problem they face is securing and holding a job. This is especially so if the epilepsy is not fully controlled.

Some still see the onset of a seizure as mysterious and even frightening.

The majority of people with epilepsy live normal lives, but there are still those who think that someone with epilepsy cannot be educated or employed or is in some way odd.

This unjustified stigma has an unacceptable social, psychological and economic impact on those with epilepsy.

There is much we, as a society, can do to improve the quality of life for people with epilepsy in Singapore; they do need help.

Goh Keng Hwee

Executive Director

Epilepsy Care Group Singapore