Newry Town Hall will be illuminated in Blue tonight to mark World Parkinsons Day.

It comes after research shows that 91% of people with Parkinson’s in Northern Ireland feel harassed and discriminated against.

New figures released today (11 April) by the charity Parkinson’s UK Northern Ireland reveal for the first time the shocking lack of public awareness around Parkinson’s and its symptoms despite it being the second most prevalent neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s.

Newry Town Hall will be lit up Blue this evening to mark World Parkinson's Day. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Newry Town Hall will be lit up Blue this evening to mark World Parkinson's Day. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

In a survey *, launched to mark World Parkinson’s Day (11 April), 91% of people living with Parkinson’s in Northern Ireland said they’d had negative experiences as a result of people not understanding their symptoms including being laughed at, accusations people assuming they are drunk or unfriendly due to movement problems caused by their Parkinson’s, and even being disbelieved when they’ve revealed their diagnosis.

Key figures for Northern Ireland showed:

  • Over half (56%) have said that people don’t believe they have Parkinson’s 
  • Over a fifth (22%) said their less expressive facial expressions – an effect of the condition - had been misinterpreted as being unfriendly  
  • Almost a fifth (17%) said that their imbalance or slurred speech had been misinterpreted as drunkenness 
  • Over a quarter (26%) had been told they were ‘too young’ to have Parkinson’s
  • Half (51%) had been told that they ‘don’t look ill’
  • Over a quarter (27%) have felt or been judged for using a disabled parking space or toilet.

The findings from Parkinson’s UK Northern Ireland also highlight the huge toll that public reactions can have on those living with the condition everyday - with 57% cancelling or avoiding social situations due to the negative impact of public perceptions.

Today on World Parkinson's Day (11 April 2019) the charity is launching Parkinson’s Is, a campaign to show the reality of life with Parkinson’s.

Nicola Moore, Parkinson’s UK Northern Ireland Director said “People don’t fully understand what Parkinson’s is or how it affects people. The public doesn't think that Parkinson's is a serious condition. And people with Parkinson's have told us that they don't feel understood. The Parkinson’s Is campaign aims to change that.”

“We need everyone to recognise Parkinson's as the serious health condition it is, and the major impact it has on everyday life so that people with Parkinson’s do not continue to experience such appalling misunderstanding of their symptoms. We also want to show how, despite their symptoms, people with Parkinson's don’t let the condition hold them back from achieving the most incredible things.”

Everyone in Northern Ireland has a role to play in developing understanding and positive public attitudes towards people affected by Parkinson’s and I urge everyone to visit our website to engage with our campaign Parkinson’s Is.

Parkinson’s UK has today launched its Parkinson’s Is campaign, which highlights how the condition is far more than just a tremor, and the often-brutal reality of living with it. Find out more at:

*The research was undertaken by Opinium between 20 November 2018 and 1 February 2019. The sample size was 2,366 UK adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s. In Northern Ireland 70 people with Parkinson’s took part which is representative of adults with Parkinson’s living in Northern Ireland.

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