Be more purple – how to support someone who is having a seizure


Author: Nicola Swanborough, head of external affairs at the Epilepsy Society  

If someone at your council meeting – maybe a fellow councillor or a public member – had a seizure, would you know what to do?

If the answer is no, don’t worry, you are not alone. Two-thirds of people who do not have a family connection with epilepsy say they would not know how to support someone having a convulsive seizure where they fall to the ground shaking. It’s not that they wouldn’t be willing to help; they wouldn’t know how.

That is why, at the Epilepsy Society, we have simplified our first aid messaging to make it more memorable for the public. We are all victims of information overload, so we have got our messaging down to three short words:

Calm. Cushion. Call.

It’s as easy as that. If you see someone having a seizure, stay CALM, CUSHION their head, and CALL for an ambulance.

And this Purple Day, 26 March 2023, the international day for epilepsy, we are asking councils across the UK to make sure that they and the people they represent are seizure savvy and would be confident of helping someone while they wait for medical help to arrive.

We ask you to prominently display our Calm, Cushion, Call posters in community spaces, supermarkets, surgeries, libraries or anywhere frequently used by the public. And share our digital resources via websites and social media channels.

You can download our Seizure First Aid poster and digital resources or order the poster through our online shop.

It really can help make a difference.

There are 600,000 people with epilepsy in the UK; that is 1 in 100. And for one-third of them, their seizures cannot be controlled with current treatment options. This means that 200,000 people live daily, never knowing whether they will have a seizure. And if they go out in public, statistics tell us that two out of three people would unlikely know how to help them.

That is a huge worry; the anxiety can prevent many from going out. This can lead to isolation and depression, spiralling into loneliness. Epilepsy isn’t a mental health condition – it is a neurological condition – but it can often cause mental health issues. Yet all of us can help people with uncontrolled seizures feel more confident by ensuring we have the knowledge to support them in public, in the supermarket, the library, the cinema, and the street.

Most seizures are self-limiting and unlikely to last longer than two minutes. Still, unless you know the person and their history, it is always best to call for an ambulance so that a healthcare professional can decide whether the person should be taken to the hospital.

For the majority of us, the seizures that we are most aware of are convulsive seizures. But not all seizures are convulsive. There are over 40 different seizure types; for some, the person may be conscious and mobile but unaware of what is happening around them. They may not respond if you speak to them. They may be wandering around, picking up objects, or pulling at their clothes.

If you suspect someone is having a non-convulsive seizure and their awareness is impaired, speak to them gently, do not try to restrain them but keep them away from danger. Stay with them until they recover; you can ensure they are safe and with a friend or family member.

Find out more about first aid for different seizure types

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