Factors underlying stigmatization of people with epilepsy in Suba and Meru Central districts, Kenya
Nyakwana, Tiberry D. O.
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Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder of various aetiologies that occurs due to excessive discharge from cerebral neurons which often results into spontaneous disturbance of motor, autonomic, psychic or sensory functions. It is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting about 50 million people worldwide and 10 million in Africa. Its most devastating characteristics are unpredictable seizures, social stigma and psychological morbidity. Even though it is very common and widespread, it continues to be misunderstood and still shrouded in mystery and superstition. This often results in distressing social penalties characterized by shame, ostracism and invalidation; a state of affairs people with epilepsy share with their families. The ensuing low esteem leads to reduced leisure opportunities, systematic discrimination and progressive social withdrawal which contribute to their exclusion from mainstream healthcare and deterioration of their condition.The comparative case study between Suba and Meru Central Districts was aimed at determining the underlying factors for stigmatization of people with epilepsy. This study assessed peoples' awareness, knowledge, perception, attitude and practice on epilepsy across the ethnic divide and determined the strength of the relationship between these factors and education level, occupation and gender. A modified participatory rapid appraisal technique was used which involved questionnaires, interview schedules and focused group discussions. Household heads, medical personnel, members of community-based organizations, patients, parents, administrators, teachers, faith healers and herbalists were interviewed. The study results reveal a significant statistical relationship between negative attitude and fear epilepsy (x2 = 43.69354, df=1, p<0.05). The fear of epilepsy is dependent on knowledge about it (x2 = 7.41663, df=1, p=0.00646). Occupation was not found to influence fear except among the Meru Central District female respondents (x2 = 6.19763, df=2, p=0.04510). However there was no significant relationship between fear of epilepsy and the level of education (x2 = 0.15773, df=2, p=0.092436). The belief that epilepsy results from a curse or witchcraft is transferable and contagious was deeply entrenched in the culture of the two communities and that the society views them with resentment resulting into isolation and social stigma. The study recommends the provision of effective treatment and a comprehensive community sensitization program with target specific IEC materials to counter the negative beliefs. The findings from this study will assist policy makers to understand the burden of epilepsy and draw insight in further research from the academic fraternity and health experts on epilepsy and its management.
- MST-Zoological Sciences