International Epilepsy Day in Liberia: Overcoming Stigma, Accessing Treatment | Doctors Without Borders

Medication plays a key role in controlling symptoms such as seizures, while counseling also helps patients understand how to manage their condition. Psychosocial workers and community health volunteers make it known that treatment is available and they work with families and communities to reduce the social stigma that many patients experience.

The effort has grown since 2017 and now provides treatment for more than 1,200 patients with epilepsy and nearly 600 patients with psychiatric conditions.

Focus on inclusion

Nango’s school dropout experience is far from unique. More than half of MSF’s epilepsy patients are school-aged children, but the majority do not attend school. Social stigma is the main reason why around 10% of these children have dropped out of school, MSF found, while other reasons include financial hardship or poor health.

After Nango was under treatment for epilepsy, it still took a concerted effort to get him back to school.

“Our psychosocial team continues to work with Mr. Nango and his family through home visits, phone calls and psychoeducation services at his school,” says Kollie. “After intensive epilepsy education with students and administrative staff, Mr. Nango was finally accepted back into the school.”

Two years ago, Nango graduated from high school and is now proud to work as a junior high school teacher. He spreads the message that treatment for epilepsy is available and has encouraged others with seizures to seek treatment. His own symptoms are well controlled by medication.

On this International Epilepsy Day, February 14, 2022, MSF psychosocial workers are visiting health centers and schools in Montserrado County to raise awareness. Their T-shirts carry a clear message intended to reduce the stigma that Nango and many other patients have experienced. They say, “Epilepsy is not contagious.

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