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Yanzhuo Li
English 1A
June 13, 2016
Outline for Overcoming Discrimination and Stigmatization in Epilepsy
I. Introduction
Thesis: Ignorance and misguided cultural practices are two main causes of the stigmatization
and discrimination felt by people with epilepsy.

II. Causes
A.Ignorance
a. Many people do not understand epilepsy and are fearful due to
that ignorance.

B.Cultural Misunderstandings
a. Many countries and societies have rules in place that
discriminate against people with epilepsy and that perpetuates the
discrimination from the people.
b. Although discrimination exists in the U.S., it may be more
pronounced for certain populations from Asia due to cultural
misunderstandings

III. Effects
A. Societal discrimination
a. People in society may discriminate against people with epilepsy
to make them feel socially unwanted.
B. Internalized stigma

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a. People with epilepsy may feel stigmatized due to their
condition and how society treats them because of their condition.
b. People take cues from society and are often influenced by the
messages that they see in the larger environment. As such, repeated negative
messages may be harmful to those with epilepsy.
IV. Conclusion

A. People with epilepsy continue to face discrimination and a way to reduce the
discrimination is by educating the public and changing societal views of the
condition.
B. So What Statement: If people knew the facts about epilepsy and are able to
correct their understanding of epilepsy, then people with epilepsy may be able to
lessen the stigmatization and discrimination that they experience.

Overcoming Discrimination and Stigmatization in Epilepsy

People with epilepsy (PWE) suffer not only from the physical manifestations of the
condition but also greatly from the stigma and discrimination that surrounds the condition.
The research literature shows that the stigmatization of PWE persists, in varying degrees,
across nations in all stages of economic development (Chung et al). In fact, information from
the World Health Organization claims that the social consequences of epilepsy pose a
substantial barrier to health parity and improved care for PWE, saying that the
discrimination and social stigma that surround epilepsy worldwide are often more difficult to
overcome than the seizures themselves (World Health Organization). As such, PWE
continue to bear the burdens of stigmatization and discrimination while they fight to control
their seizures. Ignorance and misguided cultural practices are two of the main causes of the
the stigmatization and discrimination felt by PWE.

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Although epilepsy is a condition that affects tens of millions of people around the
world, many people are still relatively ignorant as to the characteristics and causes of
epilepsy. Due to this ignorance, people may grow fearful because people tend to be
needlessly afraid of things they do not understand. For example, people may try to ban those
with epilepsy from having children because they feel that epilepsy is a genetically linked
condition, even though epilepsy is rarely passed on from parents to children. Further, some
may even recommend that people with epilepsy are imprisoned because they fear that their
seizures are a manifestation of possession by the devil or evil spirits. Although believing that
PWE are possessed by demons may seem laughable to most today, it has been a widely
accepted perception around the world for centuries, and may still be the most widely accepted
perspective in some areas of the world today (World Health Organization).
Many countries in the past have publicly and unapologetically discriminated against
people with mental health conditions like epilepsy. Even the United States, which is one of
the most liberal and progressive countries in the world, has had laws that discriminated
against people with epilepsy until the recent past. For example, in the United States of
America, until the 1970s, it was legal to deny people with seizures access to restaurants,
theatres, recreational centres and other public buildings (World Health Organization). Even
worse, a number of states in the U.S. banned PWE from having children or even from getting
married under certain circumstances until only a few decades ago. Moreover, the culture of
the country allowed for institutionalized discrimination against people with epilepsy. Instead
of thinking to help people with epilepsy, most governments decided to socially quarantine
them and keep them separated from society by disallowing them basic rights such as that of
marriage. When governments essentially show their people that it is acceptable to
discriminate against a certain group of people, then the denizens of that country may be more
likely to follow through with the discrimination. For example, the World Health Organization

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states that in both China and India, epilepsy is commonly viewed as a reason for prohibiting
or annulling marriages (World Health Organization). This official government sanctioning of
discrimination is one of the reasons certain populations from those countries may continue to
hold more discriminatory views towards PWE (Chung et al). It is crucial to remember that the
faith that people place in their governments and leaders give these officials a place of
authority and validity that can be used to influence the general population. More importantly,
the government should use its powers to encourage people to be more accepting of all people
and not to stigmatize those with certain conditions or from particular backgrounds.
People with epilepsy may feel stigmatized because other people in their social circles
do not welcome or purposefully ostracize them due to their condition. Research has shown
that there are still a significant portion of people who would refuse to allow their children to
interact with children who have epilepsy (Chung et al). Further, there is an even greater
number of people who would not allow their children to be married to somebody with
epilepsy (Chung et al). In the workplace, managers and owners of businesses may choose to
terminate people with epilepsy because of their condition or may simply deny PWE the right
to work regardless of their qualifications (Chung et al). Although this practice of
discriminating against people with epilepsy is against the law, it is possible that the people
who are being fired from their job do not feel worthy of fighting for that position after
termination. The owner of the business may also claim other reasons to terminate that person.
This is one of the reasons why PWE sometimes feel as if they do not belong and
subsequently may not be able to achieve their full potential in school and the workplace
(Chung et al). It is unacceptable for people to feel as if they are lesser because of their
condition. Moreover, we as a society should continually fight for people who have
unfortunate conditions so that they may be able to achieve an equal footing in society.

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In response to the discrimination that they feel from the outside world, those with
epilepsy may internalize that discrimination. Further, they begin to think less of themselves
because of the external messages that affect them socially (Baruchin). They may be less
likely to seek out resources that may be of service to them and can help mitigate the issues
that their condition has caused (Chung et al). In addition, people with epilepsy may begin to
think that they were somehow responsible for their condition even though they may not be. In
many cases of epilepsy, the person who has the condition actually does not know how the
condition has come about. In fact, Epilepsy Foundation submits that about a third of epilepsy
cases have no known causes that can be diagnosed by a physician (Epilepsy Foundation).
People with epilepsy, who number around fifty million in 2016, continue to face
discrimination and a way to reduce the discrimination is by educating the public and
changing societal views of the condition (World Health Organization). It is critical for society
to get a clear understanding of what epilepsy is in order to get people to change their minds
about this condition because people tend to be more afraid of what they do not understand.
Since it is understandable for people to fear the unknown, a critical first step for people to
stop discriminating against PWE is to increase their knowledge and awareness of the
condition so that they may begin developing empathy for those with epilepsy. Some effective
ways of increasing awareness could involve organizations such as the Epilepsy Foundation
which serve as a nexus for many different organizations that can further disseminate
information regarding epilepsy such as neurology clinics. Other helpful ways of raising
awareness include doing charity runs and other fundraising events where people come
together to learn about the condition and help spread awareness through personal interactions.
The condition of epilepsy is indeed a fearsome one. It is through the consideration and
compassion of people around the world that people with epilepsy may experience a brighter
future.

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Works Cited
Baruchin, Aliyah. "Battling Epilepsy, and Its Stigma." The New York Times. The New York
Times, 19 Feb. 2007. Web. 11 June 2016.
Chung, Kenny, Susan L. Ivey, Wenting Guo, Kevin Chung, Catherine Nguyen, Christine
Nguyen, Corina Chung, and Winston Tseng. "Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice toward
Epilepsy (KAPE): A Survey of Chinese and Vietnamese Adults in the United States."
Epilepsy & Behavior 17.2 (2010): 221-27. Elsevier. Web. 25 May 2016.
Chung, Kenny, Yuan Liu, Susan L. Ivey, Debbie Huang, Corina Chung, Wenting Guo,
Winston Tseng, and Daveena Ma. "Quality of Life in Epilepsy (QOLIE): Insights about
Epilepsy and Support Groups from People with Epilepsy (San Francisco Bay Area, USA)."
Epilepsy & Behavior 24.2 (2012): 256-63. Elsevier. Web. 25 May 2016.
Epilepsy Foundation. "Epilepsy and Asian American Communities." Epilepsy Foundation.
Epilepsy Foundation, Mar. 2014. Web. 04 June 2016.
World Health Organization. "Epilepsy." World Health Organization. World Health
Organization, Feb. 2016. Web. 11 June 2016.