One in five would not employ someone with epilepsy

New research has shown that one in five Irish people would not employ someone with epilepsy, if given a choice.

Epilepsy Irelandsurveyed more than 1,000 members of the public and found that serious misconceptions around the condition remain.

More than 37,000 people suffer from epilepsy in Ireland. It is one of the most common serious neurological conditions in Ireland, but remains the one the most misunderstood.

Spokesperson for the group Paul Sharkey said: "There still seems to be a gap between what epilepsy actually is and the perception people have when they hear the word. That's disappointing and frustrating that we still have a huge amount of work (to do ).

"Epilepsy is not contagious and people with epilepsy can work successfully, have a family, drive, play sports and make the same positive contribution to society as we all do."

Paul added that the myths around epilepsy include a continuing belief that if someone has a seizure, you should place something in their mouth. In fact, nothing should be placed in the mouth.

He said there was another mistaken belief that all people with epilepsy are affected by flashing lights. In fact, that is true of only 3%-5% of sufferers.

"That 'flashing-lights' myth has led to some exclusion of people around computer-based training courses," he said.

He added that most people assume that a person with epilepsy will fall to the ground and go into a seizure, but that's not even the most common type of seizure.

"The most common type is where a person's consciousness is disturbed - they may not know who or where they are for example," he said.

While stressing the survey was not conducted among employers, but among members of the general public, Paul Sharkey added that the word "epilepsy" seemed to conjure up "an idea of lack of capability", and limited employment opportunities for those with the condition.

"What (employers) need to do is look at how the condition is affecting that individual, and then assess whether they are suitable for the position," he said.

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