Anniversary Op Ed

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Epilepsy is characterized by having two or more unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. In

the United States, epilepsy has an equivalent prevalence rate to breast cancer (just under 3 million people). Why don’t

we hear more about it? One word: Stigma.


Seventeen states had laws preventing people with epilepsy to marry, and the last state to repeal these laws was in

1980! Until June of 1999, a state residence originally called the “State School and Hospital for Mentally Deficient and

Epileptics” operated in Cambridge, MN. And according to a 2012 World Health Organization report, epilepsy may

currently be used as justification to deny marriage in India and China.


This is all within the last sixty years! The next 60 years will be different; we will rise above seizures.

2014 marks the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota’s (EFMN) 60th year of helping people with seizures realize their full

potential. What can we do to raise public awareness and reduce stigma in the next 60 years?


We’ve come a long way recently, with a courageous Big Ten college football coach and his family willing to stand up

to stigma. Ignorant comments in the media sparked a movement across the country, propelling thousands of people

affected by epilepsy to say “no” to stigma.


The next 60 years will be different; we will rise above seizures.


The unpredictability of seizures presents challenges in daily life. Can you imagine your first day of school, unsure if

you will have a seizure? Or hoping a seizure doesn’t occur during a job interview? EFMN supports marathon runners,

educators, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, kids in classrooms and people from all walks of life who deal with this

unknown every day. These people define courage!


The 60,000 people in our community with epilepsy deserve a life free from classroom bullying, employment

discrimination and being told dreams aren’t possible. It’s time for everyone affected by seizures to raise our hands and

show that we refuse to be defined by seizures.


EFMN helps people rise above seizures and realize their full potential by providing educational resources, support and

connection to others facing similar challenges. Our programs and services are FREE and vary from seizure first aid

training in a workplace, to a Creative Arts Program that showcases the talents of people with epilepsy. We are working

diligently to expand the number of people we serve with our award-winning programs and services.

The next 60 years will be different; we will rise above seizures.


You will hear more about epilepsy in 2014. The Foundation is launching a vigorous public awareness campaign to

include: a Minnesota State Capitol rotunda rally on March 4, a release of 60,000 balloons this spring and events

throughout the year to fight stigma. More surprise announcements are coming!


Rochester is an obvious hub for epilepsy research, medical innovation and raising awareness. It is also home to the

newly-elected president of the American Epilepsy Society, Dr. Elson So. The Foundation’s work reaches into Red Wing,

Fairmont and beyond to educate and reduce stigma. We also collect used clothing donations statewide, as 100% of the

proceeds benefit our programs and services. Contact our Rochester-area Outreach Coordinator, Vicki Snyder, about

local programs and support: or 507.287.2103.


The next 60 years will be different; we will rise above seizures.

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Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, Inc. • Copyright © 1994-2015 All rights reserved.
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