Demystifying Epilepsy in Cameroon Africa

June 27, 2017

On the demise of Gabriel Bebonbechem whose story we earlier shared here, his mother thought that the best legacy for his short and painful life was the creation of a Foundation for awareness and outreach to others in similar situations. The Gbm Foundation for Epilepsy and Mental Wellbeing, was therefore created in August 2014 to that effect.

The Gbm-em Foundation therefoe has as an objective, the fight against the stigma of those suffering from epilepsy.

Today, we want to share the excerpts of a chart compiled in collaboration with Dr Nkouonlack Cyrille MD (Hons), DSSC, DFMS, Specialist in Internal Medicine and Neurology Buea Regional Hospital in Cameroon – Africa. He is one of the Foundation's Partners, and a lead Project Manager in our Epilepsy Awareness Campaign and contributions.

"Many false beliefs and misunderstandings about epilepsy are responsible for the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with epilepsy. These false beliefs can negatively impact the life of the persons with epilepsy. The following table summarizes certain false beliefs and facts about epilepsy".

Some False Beliefs

1.Epilepsy is caused by evil spirits or supernatural forces;

2.Iron bars, and burning skin or scarification and other practices can stop an attack;

3.During a seizure, patients can swallow their tongue;

4.Patients with epilepsy require asylum;

5.Pupil/students with epilepsy require special schools;

6.Patients living with epilepsy cannot marry;

7.Patients living with epilepsy cannot bear children;

8.People with epilepsy are mentally deranged (We will however note the probability of a mental disorder in the long run due largely to the stigma and some dangerous side effects of medication)

Epilepsy as defined by theWHO

The World Health Organization defines Epilepsy as a chronic disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, which may vary from a brief lapse of attention or muscle jerks, to severe and prolonged convulsions. The seizures are caused by sudden, usually brief, excessive electrical discharges in a group of brain cells (neurones). In most cases, epilepsy can be successfully treated with anti-epileptic drugs.

Key Facts on Epilepsy byWHO

1.Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disorder of the brain that affects people of all ages;

2.Approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally;

3.Nearly 80% of the people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income countries;

4.People with epilepsy respond to treatment approximately 70% of the time;

5.About three fourths of people with epilepsy living in low- and middle- income countries do not get the treatment they need;

6.In many parts of the world, people with epilepsy and their families suffer from stigma and discrimination.

Bridging the gap between Facts and Beliefs

This is why the Gbm Foundation commissioned a baseline study in its pilot area of the Lebialem Division, to identify such false myths and other prevailing attitudes which contribute to the prevalence of epilepsy in the area. The Foundation is equally projecting other phases of intervention in the area, pursuant to the results of this baseline studies. In the meantime, the Foundation recently implemented a project dubbed "Inclusive Education for young epileptics", and one of the initial phases of the project includes the demystifying of epilepsy among the target population.

The Gbm Foundation for Epilepsy and Mental Wellbeing is a year old Foundation operating in Cameroon Africa. The Foundation's Blog is:

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