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Every March the world turns purple in support of the 65 million people living with epilepsy.

– Every 33 minutes a life is turned upside down by a diagnosis of epilepsy, that’s 308 Australians every week.

– 1 in 20 children will have a seizure by the time they are 15 years old.

– 1 in every 200 Australian school children will be diagnosed with epilepsy.

As an Australia-wide campaign supported by epilepsy organisations across the country and the national peak body – Epilepsy Australia – Make March Purple and Purple Day, held on 26 March, is an international day for epilepsy awareness.

Epilepsy Australia is the national coalition of state-based epilepsy associations raising awareness and providing education on behalf of Australians living with epilepsy.

Even though tens of millions of people live with epilepsy worldwide, the condition is still deeply stigmatised. The special events are also an effort to raise much-needed funds so that they can continue to invest in research and support programs.

More common than one would think, epilepsy does not discriminate based on age, gender, or ethnicity. Epilepsy can affect anyone, at any age or stage of life but is most prevalent among older populations with 45–54-year-olds being the most represented, closely followed by people over 65.

During the month of March Epilepsy Australia is encouraging schools and organisations to participate, raise awareness or fundraise in support of the 308 Australians diagnosed with epilepsy each week.

Whether it’s dying your hair, painting your face, an office morning tea or quirky costumes – if it’s purple, they want to see it. Tag Epilepsy Australia in your purple activities and help raise awareness for epilepsy in Australia. It’s not too late to get involved.

Emma Lorkin, nurse for Epilepsy Australia said: “I would love every school and every workplace to have epilepsy understanding and awareness training, the same as what they do for other conditions like anaphylaxis, and diabetes and asthma and things like that.”

“More than a million Australians will develop epilepsy in their lifetime, and while 50 per cent of people will never learn the cause of their epilepsy, 1 in 10 will experience a seizure,” said Lorkin. “For many, epilepsy also affects the personal lives, employment, education, and wellbeing of the person and their family.”

Epilepsy costs Australia $12.3 billion every year, with the biggest hits to lost wellbeing, lost productivity, and to the health system.

Identified as the most common serious neurological condition in the world, epilepsy involves the brain, causing a person to have repeated seizures. Seizures occur when the brain’s nerve cells (neurons) misfire and generate sudden, uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain.

There are more than 40 epilepsy syndromes and more than 70 types of seizures.

Signs of a seizure vary depending on where in the brain the electrical activity occurs, and not all seizures are convulsive. For 70 per cent of people, seizures may be controlled with medication, however, there is no cure for epilepsy.

As common as it is, the world of epilepsy resides behind a wall of misinformation and confusion, and the combined bodies are determined to overcome the problems of the past. For the first time ever, expert advice, resources and advocacy are working together under one roof to manage all sides of epilepsy.

Information will no longer be disjointed. Medical professionals will be able to provide high quality resources with confidence, organisations can complete Epilepsy Smart training to cater to a more diverse set of needs and ensure the safety of everyone under their care, and people living with epilepsy will have easy access to the support they need.

No one with epilepsy should go it alone. Staffed by epilepsy support workers with in-depth knowledge of epilepsy and the ability to provide answers to quick questions and information relevant to everyone’s specific needs, the National Epilepsy Support Service is available to provide ongoing support and assistance to those who need it.

Call 1300 761 487, email or visit the Epilepsy Smart Australia website.