International May 12th Awareness Day
The clock is now counting down to International May 12th Awareness Day 2020.
This year, 2019, marked the 27th anniversary of International May 12th Awareness Day. The idea originated with Thomas Michael Hennessy, Jr., the founder of Repeal Existing Stereotypes about Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (no longer active). Tom Hennessy was based in the USA but understood that it needed to be an international event; he designated May 12 as the International Awareness Day for the spectrum of illnesses he called Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND).
May 12 was chosen as it coincided with the birth date of Florence Nightingale, the celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale became chronically ill in her mid-thirties after returning from the Crimean War; the M.E.-like illness often left her bedridden during the last 50 years of her life. You will find a more detailed account in A Short History of M.E.
Tom Hennessy included Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome), Fibromyalgia, Gulf War Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity under the CIND umbrella. These illnesses, characterised by cognitive problems, chronic muscle and joint pain, extremely poor stamina, and numerous other symptoms, afflict people around the world in alarming numbers.
May 12 efforts have largely been low-key and undertaken by individuals or individual organisations. Due to the mandates of these organisations the awareness efforts have, for the most part, focussed on only one of the illnesses. From the beginning of 1993 various M.E. organisations were behind the idea, and it was subsequently highlighted at the First World Congress on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Related Disorders in 1995. This was instrumental in the campaign being adopted internationally for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. The universal symbol of the blue ribbon is worn to spread awareness and support sufferers.
Awareness continues to increase throughout the world, and Severe M.E. Day was launched in 2013 by the 25% ME Group. August 8 is a day to remember everyone who is suffering or who has ever suffered from severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. A rainbow was chosen as the emblem for this day to symbolise a bridge from ignorance to knowledge.
The ME Action Network is a worldwide M.E. patient advocacy group co-founded in 2015 by Jennifer Brea and Beth Mazur. They created the #MillionsMissing global campaign in 2016, which asks for increased government funding for research, clinical trials, medical education and public awareness.
On Monday 9 September 2013, Tom Hennessy passed away in Florida at the age of 59, after a 25-year battle with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Obituary).
May 12 promotional material and merchandise, including awareness ribbons, are available to order from the M.E. Support Online Shop. You can follow this international event via the M.E. Support Newsletter and M.E. Support Facebook Page.