Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy — Preventing Depression — Project UPLIFT | December 18, 2012

It’s called Project UPLIFT (Using Practice and Learning to Increase Favorable Thoughts). And eureka! It doesn’t include meds…

What’s more, this new study has proven successful in the prevention of depression in people diagnosed with epilepsy.

Project UPLIFT focuses on teaching mindfulness and methods of consciously redirecting thoughts away from worry and negativism.

And it applies a revised version of a web and phone based method focused on preventing, rather than treating depression.

Thanks to a team of researchers at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University led by Nancy Thompson, PhD, MPH, associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education, and lead researcher of Project UPLIFT, “we are able to prevent depression, reduce seizures, and improve quality of life all at relatively low cost”

The statistics for depression in epilepsy are hardly surprising. Depression affects between 32 and 48% of people with epilepsy. In fact, depression is known to have more of an impact on quality of life than frequent seizures.

Also, people dealing with epilepsy often experience barriers such as transportation, frequent seizures and feelings of isolation.

And suicide rates among people with epilepsy are much higher than the general population. A recent study reported that 14% of deaths in people with epilepsy were attributable to suicide.

The UPLIFT materials, based upon Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, includes eight sessions:

1.  Monitoring Thoughts…

2. Challenging and Changing Thoughts…

3. Coping and Relaxing…

4. Attention and Mindfulness…

5. The Calm Present…

6. Thoughts as Changeable, Thoughts as Impermanent…

7. Focus on Pleasure and the Importance of Reinforcement…

8. Preventing Relapse and Giving Thanks. 

The program is delivered in eight 1-hour sessions over 8 weeks, either by telephone conference call or through a web-based conferencing system, originally developed for online education, to groups of seven patients at a time.

“When a group is moderated by someone with first hand experience, the discussion becomes much more effective, yielding greater results,” says Thompson.

Statistical analysis showed that 12% to 19% of new cases of depression were prevented through these cognitive behavioral interventions.

That means, according to this study, up to 120,000 people with epilepsy will have positive results.

Those who took part in the research increased their knowledge and skills for preventing depression, allowing them to incorporate positive techniques to replace negative feelings.

They were ultimately able to make clearer decisions about epilepsy treatment and other aspects of life.

While this proposal targets people with epilepsy, the intervention could be easily adapted to serve other populations, many of whom have elevated rates of depression.

And preventing depression avoids the lost productivity associated with depression, along with the significant costs associated with treating depression after it has already occurred. It also enhances people’s capacity for managing future encounters with stress and difficult life circumstances.


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  1. I am interested in this , I have epilepsy about 20 years please contact me thanks mark


    Comment by Mark Forsythe — March 8, 2014 @ 11:02 PM

  2. with my history of epilespy, 1-8 sound,s like me but I keep going.


    Comment by michele metzger — November 9, 2016 @ 12:30 AM

  3. That’s a GOOD thing, Michele!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 9, 2016 @ 1:10 AM

  4. I’m dealing with epilepsy and depression 26yrs so I don’t know if the medication is causing my depression ? nothing is helping my depression. I numb myself so I can cope I with life …

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by sonia g — February 22, 2023 @ 4:20 PM

  5. Sonia, not to be a wise-ass, but a little socialization would help. (I speak from personal experience.)

    You can find in-person support groups at https://www.epilepsy.com/local.

    There are lots of helpful groups (believe it or not) on Facebook. Simply key in Epilepsy on the top left search bar and a myriad of groups will pop up. Try them. Some are wonderful. Some are duds.

    And there’s always us at Epilepsy Talk where you’ll find a listening ear, advice and support. No judgement. No limits.

    We’re here for you.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 22, 2023 @ 5:41 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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