Where are the celebrities with epilepsy?

So, Kelly Osbourne is recovering in hospital after having a seizure while filming her TV fashion show. She probably feels pretty dreadful right now – I’m guessing headaches, memory loss, aches and pains and fatigue for starters – and I wish her a swift recovery and a swift diagnosis.

Her seizure could have any one of a number of different causes, but if she is diagnosed with epilepsy, I hope she will speak out about it.

Can you name any famous people with epilepsy? You might say Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, and even Vincent Van Gogh or Joan of Arc if pushed.

But can you name any contemporary famous people with epilepsy? Without any help from Google, the only people I could think of were Olympian Dai Greene and actor Rik Mayall. Google also gave me actor Hugo Weaving and DJ Edith Bowman.

My Googling also brought me to Epilepsy.com’s list of famous people with epilepsy, but even that site somewhat mournfully admits:

Today, celebrities with epilepsy remain “in the closet,” concerned that going public with their epilepsy will result in negative treatment and harm their employment opportunities. This is a shame, because people living with epilepsy – people who are neither geniuses nor celebrities – deserve to have role models to inspire them, and leaders to raise public awareness and understanding of their disorder.

There is no denying that we live in a celebrity-obsessed world (heck, Heat magazine is my guilty pleasure) so just think of how much of the thousands of years of stigma could be destroyed if a big name star spoke out. Think Michael J Fox and Parkinson’s, or Kylie Minogue and breast cancer, or Stephen Fry and bipolar disorder. Their openness has done so much to raise awareness. One in every 131 people in the UK alone has epilepsy, so there must be some household names out there.

I have never personally suffered any major instances of prejudice (lack of understanding and even embarrassment are the most common reactions, which I am always happy to address) but you regularly see inaccurate and unhelpful things written in the media.

People with epilepsy can be just as successful as anyone else. We don’t have to be ashamed. So if Kelly Osbourne does end up joining us, I hope she will feel able to talk about it when she’s ready. It would be great to see epilepsy discussed in a more positive way that can inspire us all.