A first-of-its-kind support group is being launched for people living with epilepsy.
Epilepsy Foundation New Zealand will establish the Bay of Plenty Support Trust with an inaugural meeting in Tauranga on September 7.
An estimated 2500 people live with epilepsy in the Tauranga and Whakatane area.
Foundation marketing and funding manager Brian Barnett said many people with epilepsy did not have enough support and often became isolated, ashamed and dependent on others. The trust hopes to stop that.
"There's incredible stigma hanging around epilepsy," Mr Barnett said.
"We have a lot of people going through a job interview process then they get to the point where they say they have epilepsy and all of a sudden they no longer have a job," he said.
"So you get people on benefits and in poverty and they just go in a downward spiral. They lose self-esteem and become isolated, often choosing to stay at home rather than go out and socialise."
The trust offered these people "a real chance at life", Mr Barnett said.
"It really is incredibly significant. It makes a huge difference, giving people something to look forward to, a purpose in life."
The trust offers social sporting games with celebrity advocates such as former Silver Fern Noeline Taurua and former All Black Ian Jones, plus art sessions with acclaimed artist Reuben Paterson.
Epilepsy Foundation Board member Toni Bell and her 8-year-old son live with epilepsy and have struggled to find support or anyone else affected by the condition in the area, despite the 90,000 New Zealanders with the condition.
The formation of the trust was exciting because it would provide a network of others affected by epilepsy and offer a vital need for support, she said.
"It's about kids meeting other kids who have epilepsy. It's about them not thinking they are the only ones... other adults that have the condition will be able to meet others and get support."
The Epilepsy Foundation of New Zealand Bay of Plenty Support Trust meeting will be held at Alimento cafe at 1.30pm on September 7. More information can be found at www.epilepsyfoundation.org.nz.
What is epilepsy?
When the signals in someone's brain get confused, it's called a seizure or fit. Seizures can range from brief pauses to twitching and muscle spasms in part or all of the body. One cause of seizures is epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a condition that affects one to two people in 100. Some people are born with epilepsy. Others develop it as children or adults, after accidents such as a head injury or illnesses such as a stroke.
- Ministry of Health