This is Our Time
Sometimes we have opportunities to change things. When these moments come, we must act!
The new medicines for migraine have brought attention and hope to the world of headache medicine. The opioid epidemic has brought renewed attention to the treatment of headache, and opportunities for research. Migraine stigma is widely recognized and discussed. People are thinking of strategies to confront the stigma.1
Current activities in the "headache world"
Let me list a few of the things going on in the world of headache:
- CHAMP, the Coalition of Headache and Migraine Patients has successfully been launched, and made itself into a major voice for persons with migraine and cluster headache.
- Miles for Migraine has exploded the number of walk/runs: before 2011 there was 1; from 2012 to 2016 there were 2; in 2017, 5; and 2018: 13! Runnin’ for Research has had similar growth.
- Attendance at Headache meetings is increasing.
- Attendance at Headache on the Hill is growing quickly.
- Government policies are starting to address the need for pain and migraine research*, with hundreds of millions of dollars allocated and perhaps more to come.2
Taking advantage of the current spotlight
Either we catch this wave, or we do not. Three hundred years ago, migraine went from a disease on equal footing with other debilitating conditions, to one is that ridiculed and discriminated against.3 Things can change back, and it is time they did! If we – and that specifically includes you – fail to form into a movement that won’t take it anymore, this ugly culture of disrespect toward persons with migraine, and the doctors who treat them will persist.
History tells us that to make things change we must do two things:
- Be visible: Attend a migraine event (see CHAMP website events page), write a petition, form a support group. Slinking around in cyberspace is not good enough.
- Confront someone who says or does something ignorant. They will not change if they are not challenged (it can be done nicely – or not). Overcome your fear of the repercussions. Learn what works from the experience. Do it again, or try it a different way. Share with others what worked.
The power of words
I urge you to reinforce these actions by using language about migraine in the least stigmatizing, least minimizing, and most empowering way. I do not think that only changing the language of migraine will move the needle enough without the actions listed above – but discussing language it with others could be a gentle form of confrontation.
In this harsh world, this is certainly true: if you do not advocate for yourself, no one else can and they probably will not try. However, if you will advocate for yourself, there has never been a better time, so do it!
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