For anyone who witnessed piles of students parading around Western University campus in purple last week, nothing may have seemed out of the ordinary.
But, for those participating in Purple Day on March 26, it was all about creating awareness for those living with epilepsy, rather than just showing off some school pride.
An annual tradition taking place at the end of Epilepsy Awareness Month, Purple Day events took place all over the Forest City, including Western’s Epilepsy Awareness Rally (W.E.A.R.), presented in partnership with the Epilepsy Support Centre of London.
“It was just a great way to engage as many students as possible and help them learn about seizures and epilepsy,” said Rochelle Sorzano, public education coordinator and clinic to community educator. “People in their 20s are at a high risk for a variety of seizures and we want to make sure they’re managing it properly.”
Affecting more than 300,000 Canadians and 50 million people worldwide, epilepsy is a condition of the brain characterized by recurrent seizures. One of the most common chronic neurological disorders, it affects approximately one percent of the general population.
“It’s just a medical condition and not something to be afraid of,” stated Sorzano, adding how important it is to educate the public in order to erase many of the stigmas associated with the disorder. “It’s one of those things that the more you know, the more people reach out to you.”
The campaign began in Nova Scotia in 2008, where, after being motivated by her own struggles with the disorder, Canadian Cassidy Megan wanted to get people talking about epilepsy in an effort to dispel myths and inform those with seizures that they are not alone.
Now celebrated worldwide in dozens of countries, Purple Day has grown substantially and represented on all continents, including Antarctica.
Those in attendance also learned the correct steps for helping a person they may encounter having a seizure, something Sorzano said can make all the difference.
“The first time I saw someone having a seizure, it really bothered me I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “So it was great to see so many people come out, some who had never even met someone with epilepsy before. It was a great day.”