Only one in three people in Ireland would know what to do if they saw someone having an epileptic seizure despite more than half of adults knowing a person with epilepsy, new research shows.

The survey also shows 78% of people believe there is a social stigma attached to epilepsy. Some 91% agreed there is a lack of understanding of epilepsy among the public.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by a tendency to have recurring seizures. It has been estimated over 45,000 people in Ireland have epilepsy, a ratio of one in a hundred people.

This includes between 10,000 and 15,000 people living with uncontrolled seizures.

However, 81% of the public underestimated the prevalence of epilepsy in Ireland, believing it to be a rare condition, the survey found.

It found that 56% of adults who responded know someone with this condition, and 57% have witnessed an attack.

Despite this, just 35% answered yes when asked: “Do you think you would know what to do if someone was having an epileptic seizure in your presence?”

A further 42% said no and 23% saying they do not know whether they know or not.

The research, published on Friday, was conducted by Amárach Research on behalf of Epilepsy Ireland.

Peter Murphy, the CEO of Epilepsy Ireland said the findings show further education around this illness is needed.

“We’ve seen a real shift in how people with epilepsy are included and supported in education and employment,” he said.

“80% of respondents in the Amárach survey agreed that, in most cases, having epilepsy does not affect a person’s ability to work.

This is particularly heartening because negative attitudes towards epilepsy in the workplace has been a hugely challenging issue for many people living with the condition in the past. 

He said the findings show the overwhelming majority of people recognize the need for further awareness and education around epilepsy.

Some 87% of those who answered said they think it is important to know what to do if they witness someone having a seizure.

Advice on how to act includes knowing that an ambulance is not always needed.

An ambulance could be called if this is a person’s first known seizure or it lasts more than five minutes or more seizures follow without recovery among other emergency situations, Epilepsy Ireland advises.

Witnesses are advised not to restrain someone having a seizure unless they are in danger, and to stay with the person until they recover fully.

Epilepsy Ireland’s annual conference takes place in person in Dublin and online tomorrow, Saturday September 24, and will launch a strategic plan for supporting people with this condition over the next five years.

“Our new strategy is ambitious and resourcing it — especially in the current economic climate — will be a major challenge, but it is a plan that we are fully committed to achieving on behalf of all people we represent,” Mr Murphy said.


Source:, Niamh Griddin