Lesslie Young on the challenges facing people with epilepsy
Last week, Epilepsy Scotland launched the #ExcelWithEpilepsy campaign during National Epilepsy Week. The aim of the campaign was to show that epilepsy or any other neurological condition does not have to stop people from doing amazing things.
We wanted to show that epilepsy does not always have to be a barrier or limitation and to increase awareness of epilepsy in the workplace and engage employers with information to better support people with epilepsy to find and retain secure employment.
In January 2022, we conducted a survey exploring epilepsy and employment. We received 68 responses, 90% of whom were either currently employed or had recently been in paid employment.
The survey revealed 73% of respondents felt their epilepsy had impacted their career choices. Moreover, 39% of respondents felt they had experienced discrimination in the workplace because of their epilepsy.
Currently, 81.3% of the non-disabled population in Scotland are in employment. For people with epilepsy this figure is only 36.9%.
We are eager to change those statistics. We are aiming to increase awareness of epilepsy in the workplace and engage employers with information to better support people with epilepsy to find and retain secure employment.
Over the course of National Epilepsy Week, we shared stories from a variety of people who have epilepsy including comedian Jake Lambert who will be appearing in an hour-long show at the Edinburgh Festival in August which will be dedicated to his experiences of being diagnosed and living with epilepsy.
Also, we shared a story from professional footballer Leon Legge who shared how he manages his epilepsy whilst playing professional sport.
We wanted to inspire people living with epilepsy by sharing stories from people working in different industries who have had great success despite living with a neurological condition which affects 1 in 97 people in Scotland.
We also shared stories from members of our Youth Group and Wellbeing Group, looking at how they have adapted to living with epilepsy, how they have overcome various challenges and how our services have helped them.
For many people, epilepsy is a life changing condition. We know epilepsy can have a negative impact on people’s mental health, education, and employment opportunities.
We know there is a long way to go until we can get rid of the stigma which is associated with epilepsy and to improve the understanding of the condition amongst businesses, employers and in the workplace.
People with epilepsy should not be discriminated against because of their condition. There are ways for employers to support people who have epilepsy such as introducing reasonable adjustments.
For example, setting a fixed shift pattern for people who find their seizures are triggered by tiredness.
As we showed throughout National Epilepsy Week, epilepsy does not have to be a barrier or limitation. People with epilepsy can still excel despite their condition.
We encourage employers to see the benefit people living with epilepsy or any neurological condition can bring to their business and start learning and understanding more about one of the most common neurological conditions in the world.
For more information, about our #ExcelWithEpilepsy campaign, please go to our website at: www.epilepsyscotland.org.uk/national-epilepsy-week-2022
Lesslie Young is Chief Executive of Epilepsy Scotland.