National Epilepsy Week 2020 is now underway! | Bolt Burdon Kemp National Epilepsy Week 2020 is now underway! | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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National Epilepsy Week 2020 is now underway!

The theme for this year’s National Epilepsy Week 2020 is “More than Seizures”.

As National Epilepsy week happens to be coinciding with week 9 of lockdown, I want to focus on the issue of social wellbeing and epilepsy.

What is social wellbeing?

Social wellbeing relates to the relationships we have and how we interact with others.  Our relationships can offer support during difficult times.  It comes from regular, positive social contact with family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and peers.

Social wellness allows you to build healthy relationships with others.  Surrounding yourself with a positive social network increases your self-esteem.

Why social wellbeing is now more important than ever

Positive social support improves our quality of life. But, right now, we are being asked to keep our distance from others.  The exact opposite of the social wellbeing building blocks!

It is now more important than ever that we stay connected.

Over the past few weeks, BBK has focused on the importance of wellbeing.

We are nearing the end of our firm-wide 30-day BBK lockdown fitness challenge, run by my brilliant colleague Jessica Standley.  Over the past few weeks we have taken part in relaxing yoga sessions, energetic dance classes and some gruelling military fitness, all from the comfort of our own homes.

The wonderful weather meant that I even managed to complete a 26-mile cycle in support of Young Epilepsy for the 2.6 challenge.  My muscles are still recovering!

My more green-fingered colleagues have taken part in BBK’s “Grow a Pear” gardening challenge.  It has been so lovely seeing my colleagues gardening endeavours!  My avocado may be looking a bit sad but I have hope.

Having so many exciting challenges to look forward to and focus on has played such an important part in my mental wellbeing over the last few weeks.

But, it has also made me realise that, before lockdown, I took being able to spend time with my family, friends and colleagues for granted and just how important these relationships are.

As a solicitor in the Child Brain Injury team, I represent children and young people who have suffered a brain injury in an accident or through clinical negligence.  Some of my clients develop epilepsy as a result of their brain injury so I have seen first-hand the effect that epilepsy can have on a young person.  I have also seen the huge difference that specialist support can make to all aspects of their life.  This includes their social life and their relationship with family and friends.

That is why I wanted to raise awareness about epilepsy and social wellbeing during National Epilepsy Week.

Epilepsy and social wellbeing

Prolonged absences from school because of epilepsy can make it difficult to establish friendship groups.  Even if a young person does develop a friendship group, as social stigma is still common in epilepsy, their friends, parents might worry about having to manage the symptoms of epilepsy whilst a child is in their care.  This can lead to them shying away from inviting a young person with epilepsy to their child’s birthday party or sleepover.

As a result, young people with epilepsy tend to have fewer opportunities to participate in activities with their peers.  I have already commented on the challenges facing young people with epilepsy even going to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster.

For a young person, having epilepsy can be very socially isolating.

Young Epilepsy – The Channel and social wellbeing

The charity Young Epilepsy recommends that being in touch with other young people with epilepsy may encourage the young person to be more open about their condition, reduce feelings of isolation and provide positive social experiences.

To start the conversation, Young Epilepsy has created “The Channel”.  The Channel is a dedicated space for young people with epilepsy.  The Channel is brimming with blogs from young people with epilepsy sharing their journey.

When it comes to social wellbeing, there are life hacks for going out and even a vlog from Young Epilepsy Rep Annie about how epilepsy has impacted her social life and relationship with her friends.

The Channel creates a wonderful sense of community. It connects young people with epilepsy at a time when we all may be feeling more apart than ever.

This fantastic initiative is just one of the many reasons we are so pleased and proud to continue to support Young Epilepsy.  They organised a very colourful Purple Day in March (see my socially distant attempt here) and continue to advocate the needs of young people with epilepsy.

I am sure that The Channel and fantastic work by Young Epilepsy will help to break down barriers and encourage young people with epilepsy to participate in, and enjoy, a social life during lockdown and beyond.

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