Shining a light on epilepsy
Richard Mills is on a mission.
A diagnosed epileptic for most of his life, the Saab Court resident now aims to spread education and awareness about the neurological disorder that once was barely discussed above a whisper.
For Mills, it’s a matter of being a man on a mission. And he’s off to a great start, working with the Epilepsy Foundation of New England, and the Springfield Epilepsy Coalition, and recently hosting an educational forum at the Mason Square City Library branch that drew a full house.
“This is my initiative. I’m trying to raise more awareness in Springfield,” Mills said.
“I feel that for the Springfield community, seeing a face that they recognize is a good thing. The coalition is a vehicle to fight the personal struggle that I went through, and to allow me to give strength back to the community,” he said.
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan praised Mills, who has been a resident at Saab Court for three years, for his passion for and work on this cause.
“Mr. Mills works hard to ensure that people know about epilepsy and understand this condition,” Jordan said. “Education around issues regarding health can only be a good thing.”
At the Mason Square library branch, guests filled chairs and stood along the side as both Mills and Susan Welby, director of education and volunteer services with the New England organization, shared information about different types of epilepsy and how they are treated.
Both also noted the age-old misconceptions about epilepsy that stigmatized many afflicted with it. Those misplaced fallacies are only in recent generations being replaced by education and relating of the actual facts.
Welby was pleased with the turnout, and included a video in her presentation that highlighted many facts, symptoms and treatments for the disorder.
“The turnout was great, and people had a lot of interest in the information,” Welby said. “They asked a lot of good questions.”
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder, and it affects people of all ages. It is characterized by unpredictable seizures that can range from mild to severe, and may cause other health problems. It can be controlled with medicine.
It is estimated that 65 million people around the world have some form of epilepsy, a number that includes 3.4 million in the United States.
Public misconceptions can cause challenges that are often worse than the seizures, a fact that Mills well knows – and that has driven him on his public awareness quest.
“I want to keep awareness here in Springfield. People find strength in others, and the more you know about this, the stronger we will all be,” he said.
Mills participated in the recent Springfield Walk for Epilepsy in the Forest Park neighborhood, an even that featured plenty of information, speakers, and a health walk through city streets and Forest Park.
To take care of himself, Mills takes medication but has also learned to rely on things like keeping a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and finding spiritual peace through religion and meditation.
“Prayer and meditation keep me grounded,” Mills said. “I seek out positive people, good mentors and I follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.”
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