Campaign tells real story of living with MS
Ulster has second highest rate of disease
A leading multiple sclerosis charity has launched a new campaign aimed at drawing attention to the fact that Northern Ireland has the second highest level of the disease in the world, only slightly behind Scotland.
The MS Society began the campaign to highlight the devastating and incurable neurological condition which is most commonly diagnosed in patients in their 20s and 30s.
The Putting the Pieces Together initiative has been launched across the UK using people with MS as models. Posters also use quotes to illustrate the shattering impact of MS on relationships, work and social life, and to raise awareness of the help and support the MS Society can offer.
The campaign will run on billboards, on the web, in magazines and in the national and regional press.
MS Society chief executive Simon Gillespie said: "Research suggests the chance of a woman born in Northern Ireland developing MS is as high as one in 200, and people in Northern Ireland are more likely to develop MS than anywhere else in the world, with the exception of Scotland.
"People with MS are more likely to see their relationships fail, to lose their jobs, or to find themselves isolated as their symptoms push friends away.
"But with the right information and support, you can do more than ever to try to manage the impact of MS. That's what the MS Society is here for."
The charity chief said that it was vital to use words and images "that reflect the real experiences of people with MS".
"There's no point using models and artificial language when you are dealing with such a devastating condition. People who live with MS know what the real story is, which is why our campaign strives to tell that story," he added.
Big Brother finalist Liam McGough (23), whose mother has MS, is supporting the campaign.
"A lot of people think MS only affects older people, but my mum started getting symptoms in her 30s. There are thousands of people in their 20s and 30s with MS and I want to help the MS Society raise awareness of this," he said.
"Living with MS can be tough, but there is help and support out there."
There are more than 85,000 people with MS across the UK and it affects two to three times as many women as men. Fifty people are diagnosed every week.
There is no cure for MS and few effective treatments. Its symptoms include grinding fatigue, severe nerve pain, depression, loss of movement and vision and more.
More than 200 people with MS helped put the campaign together through the MS Society's web forums at www.mssociety.org.uk and through a series of research meetings.