Stigma experience of people with epilepsy in Mexico and views of health care providers.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder with neurobiological, cognitive, psychological, and social consequences. Epilepsy stigma is a social determinant of ill health that affects the quality of life of people who suffer from epilepsy and that renders a poor social prognosis even worse than the clinical one. From a phenomenological approach, between January and July 2011, we explored the experience of epilepsy stigma through 25 in-depth qualitative interviews with 10 persons with temporal lobe epilepsy (PWE) (we avoided terms such as "epileptics" or "epileptic patients" because they can be labeling and stigmatizing), 10 carers (CEs) of PWE who attended the epilepsy clinic of the Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery of Mexico, and 5 physicians specialized in epilepsy. The objective of the study was to identify the following: perceptions that could indicate any form of discrimination due to having epilepsy, reactions of people in front of a person having seizures, and social functioning of PWE since epilepsy onset, particularly their interpersonal relationships and participation in educational or working activities. Through the health providers' narratives, we explored the mainstream care practices, their perspectives on epilepsy, and their views about how the disease should be addressed. Thematic guidelines were elaborated for each type of participant. All information was processed with the use of the computer-assisted data analysis, Atlas.ti5. We made a codification of broad themes that corresponded to the main topics of the interview guidelines and then proceeded to finer categorization to elaborate the analytical categories. Epilepsy was attached to a powerful stereotype that includes notions of contamination, danger, sin, divine punishment, supernatural forces, and madness. Internalized, interpersonal, and institutional stigma prevents PWE from participating in school and employment and reduces their opportunities to establish peer and couple relationships. Mexican's overt impunity of structural discrimination towards PWE shows a lack of available legal resources that protect their human rights. The narrow biomedical concept that physicians have of epilepsy is consistent with the limited medical practices that are offered to treat epilepsy at the health services in Mexico. Comprehensive treatment and integrated services for epilepsy must incorporate psychosocial programs that include epilepsy stigma as a major component of the disease.