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Would You Know What To Do If You Came Across Someone Having An Epileptic Seizure?

A new study by shows that the majority of us would have no idea what to do if we came across someone having a seizure, potentially endangering thousands of lives. Today (12 February 2013) the leading charity launches a new campaign, ‘Everyone Knows Someone’, to educate the public.

Epilepsy is a tendency to have repeated seizures caused by a sudden excessive burst of electrical activity in the brain, and around 600,000 people in the UK live with the condition, including over 112,000 people aged 25 and under. For these people, getting the right support when a seizure occurs can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Yet while almost two thirds of us say that we would try and assist someone having a seizure, we admit that we wouldn’t know what to do.

  • 60 per cent of us did not realise that you can die from epilepsy, yet in the UK there are around 1000 epilepsy-related deaths per year. Young people are especially at risk. Approximately 42 per cent of deaths are avoidable, and many lives could be saved if there was a greater awareness of what to do to support a person having a seizure.
  • Worryingly, 1 in 8 people surveyed said they would place a spoon or ruler in the mouth to stop the person biting their tongue, even though this could risk serious injury or even choking.
  • Less than half (1 in 2) would protect the head, even though this is the best practice and can save the person from serious injury.

Jade, 23, was diagnosed with epilepsy two years ago. She says: “It’s had a massive effect on my life. I can no longer drive which has stripped away my independence; I had to drop out of my photography degree because it was too dangerous for me to work in a dark room; and I have to have someone with me a lot of the time so that they can help if I have a seizure. I think it’s great that organisations like are working with Young Epilepsy to raise awareness. If more people knew what to do when someone has a seizure, it would give people like myself greater independence and no doubt save lives.”

Supported by fashion giant River Island, ‘Everyone Knows Someone’ is a new awareness raising initiative from the UK’s leading epilepsy charities including , encouraging people to become more epilepsy aware. From 11-17 February, River Island customers will receive a free wristband with their online orders, and will be asked an epilepsy-related question for the chance to win a River Island shop-a-thon.

David Ford, Chief Executive at Young Epilepsy, said: “A little knowledge goes a long way and ultimately can save a person’s life. Around 1000 people die each year from epilepsy – we hope that this campaign will help to reduce this number. Young Epilepsy aims to make more people aware of the simple things that they could do to support someone in the event of a seizure and it’s really great that River Island has got behind our work. With around 1 in 100 people living with epilepsy, the chances are you do know someone, but you might just not be aware of it. I’d encourage everyone to get involved and become more epilepsy aware.”

Ben Lewis, Chief Executive at River Island said: “River Island is proud to support Young Epilepsy and Epilepsy Society by giving away these awareness wristbands. For one week they will be given to everyone who makes an online purchase from our store.”

Additional findings

Almost 60 per cent would call an ambulance, despite the fact it is only necessary to call an ambulance for seizures that last for five minutes, or if the person is injured or if it is their first seizure. 

Less than a third know that it is always a good idea to speak calmly to the person and reassure them, even if you are not sure that they can hear you, while only a third would clear the area which is done to protect the person from injuring themselves and also helps protect the person’s privacy. Furthermore, one in eight people say that if a relative or someone close to them was diagnosed with epilepsy they would be scared in case they had a seizure and they had to look after them, while around 40 per cent would be worried or nervous if they had to look after a child with epilepsy. The research also shows general awareness of the condition is low with two thirds admitting they don’t know what causes epilepsy. 1 in 20 didn’t know what epilepsy was, 1 in 100 respondents thought it was a mental disorder.

A quarter were unaware that you can develop epilepsy at any age and 60 per cent not realise that you can die from epilepsy. Although it is rare, it is possible to die from epilepsy or an epilepsy related cause. In the UK there are approximately 1000 epilepsy related deaths a year and around 42 per cent of deaths are potentially avoidable. (JEC data, 2011 – in 2009 1,150 deaths in the UK).

About the study

The research for Young Epilepsy was carried out online by Opinion Matters¬†between 09 January 2013 and 14 January 2013, amongst a panel resulting in 1,477 respondents. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998). For more information visit – Young Epilepsy – River Island

or visit our Facebook page. Show your support by taking a picture of yourself with the wristband and tweet it with hash tag #EPILEPSYAWARE


Source: Epilepsy Society