15.1.3 Attitudes towards epilepsy
People have different views about epilepsy. For example, there is a traditional belief that epilepsy is a form of insanity, caused by supernatural forces or possession by evil spirits (see Study Session 11, Section 11.1.2). There is also a belief that epilepsy is contagious. Such beliefs are not supported by evidence and can result in negative (prejudiced) attitudes towards those who have epileptic seizures, increasing their social isolation and limiting their access to treatment.
Look back to Study Session 9 (Section 9.2.2) and Study Session 11 (Section 11.1.2). When you have done so, answer the following questions:
- a.What views and beliefs do people in your community have about epilepsy?
- b.How might you address the negative consequences of such views?
Your answer may have included some of the following points:
- a.It is likely that you will encounter a range of views about epilepsy, including traditional beliefs where those who have seizures are feared and shunned. As we have stressed throughout this Module, it is important to think carefully about how you can work with such beliefs. This involves listening patiently to people’s concerns and, wherever possible, responding in a way that is sensitive to traditional explanatory models and local cultural contexts.
- b.The best way to challenge the more negative aspects of traditional views is not through confrontation but through the provision of sound, professional knowledge. Educating the community about mental health issues is a key aspect of your role and this can be highly effective in challenging the more negative features of traditional beliefs. For example, people are less likely to assume that epilepsy is the work of spirits if they have accurate information about its medical causes.