World MS Day Unites People to Share, Promote ‘Connections’

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by Mary Chapman |

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A hands-in illustration shows multiple hands coming together in a circle.

From sharing stories to heralding support networks, people across the globe are preparing to mark World MS Day, observed annually on May 30th to heighten awareness of multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder and the 2.8 million people it’s thought to affect.

Event activities take place throughout May and into June, coordinated by the MS International Federation and a global working group with representatives from Ireland, India, Argentina, Spain, Egypt, Greece, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The theme for this year’s campaign is “Connections” — establishing connections to community, to oneself, and to quality care. The campaign tagline is “I Connect, We Connect,” and the hashtag for social media platforms is #MSConnections.

“MS Connections challenges social barriers that leave people affected by MS feeling lonely and socially isolated,” the federation states on an event webpage. “It is an opportunity to advocate for better services, celebrate support networks, and champion self care.”

Participants can focus on various angels for Awareness Day, including challenging social barriers and disease stigmas, building communities that support and nurture people living with MS, promoting self-care and healthy living with MS, lobbying decision-makers for better services and treatments, and connecting patients to MS research.

Again this year, the federation and member organizations offer a variety of ways for supporters to get involved online, with participants encouraged to organize a virtual event, activity, or fundraiser.

Supporters may, for example, “pitch” stories about MS or the community to their local or national community, advocate for improved quality of care, and use social media to spark conversations about MS.

There’s also a digital World MS Day map that people can use to tell their story, find a shared resource, and announce an event.  Such scheduled events to date include a conference on “MS Connections in the patient’s journey” taking place in Athens, Greece, on May 28–29; a May 30 webinar titled “MS and a Good Life” in Masku, Finland; and a zoom yoga lesson called “The Stretch — Yoga on the Chair,” happening in Tokyo, Japan, on May 29.

In solidarity with MS patients globally, and inspired by a sign language hand symbol, supporters are invited to post photos of themselves on the map with their hands positioned together to form their “MS Heart.”

Organizers are also offering the animated campaign video “Connect with World MS Day” that features, for example, the Global MS Choir taking the stage, the MS Society of Malta lighting that country’s prime minister’s office, people telling their MS stories, the Associação Brasileira de Esclerose Multipla sharing its MS Connections toolkit, and MS Canada illuminating buildings across Vancouver.  The video comes with subtitles in Spanish, Arabic, French, and Portuguese.

The event toolkit features a host of downloadable resources including graphics, social media “shareables,” posters, an MS Connections handbook, and logos.

World MS Day is also offering “MS Stories from Around the World,” spotlighting videos from past years, and inviting people to explore the Atlas of MS, raising awareness of the lack of adequate resources globally to diagnose, inform, treat, rehabilitate, and support patients.

For its part, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is encouraging the MS community to promote global events. MS Australia is focusing on employment and MS, and on Monday, May 30, will present results of a major survey on the topic.