Stigma and bullying
Stigma and bullying is common in epilepsy, often due to widespread misunderstanding about the condition. It can lead to the young person having low self-esteem and a reduction in motivation to engage with school learning and activities. The attitudes of their school, family and friends play an important role in the young person’s overall school experience and their wellbeing.
Many young people with epilepsy say they have encountered nastiness because of their condition. This can have a devastating impact on childhood, with many young people avoiding going to places where they might be the victim of ill-treatment.
Raising awareness of the basic facts about epilepsy will help to improve confidence, tolerance and inclusion as well as dispel unhelpful myths. Awareness raising should involve both pupils and school staff and can be done in a variety of ways, including:
- Holding assemblies and lessons
- Being alert to bullying
- Developing ‘epilepsy-aware’ peer group
- Arranging staff training
Schools need to ensure that awareness raising is handled sensitively and with the young person’s (and their parents’) support. Parents, charities and other outside agencies could contribute to the awareness raising activities.
Bullying is an additional stress to young people with epilepsy and stress is a common trigger for seizures. While many schools work hard to eliminate bullying, young people with epilepsy need to be recognised as particularly vulnerable.