Even though the media coverage of ME improved significantly, the illness doesn’t receive as much media attention as some other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. which is especially obvious on the 12th May which is observed as the International ME Awareness Day since the early 1990s.
Unlike International Awareness Days for Diabetes, Breast Cancer, HIV/AIDS and some other conditions which attract huge media attention and get an extensive coverage in virtually all news media, the International ME Awareness Day makes it to the headlines in an extremely small number of media. In addition, there is usually just a brief notice that is very easy to overlook. The exception are local news media which, however, dedicate more space and time to the International ME Awareness Day either because they don’t have a better story or because there is an event to observe 12th May.
The 12th May isn’t observed as the Awareness Day for ME alone. Officially called the International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND), the 12th May is also the Awareness Day for conditions such as fibromyalgia. It has been observed annually ever since 1992 with the goal to raise the public awareness about CIND conditions as well as to raise funds for research and development of new treatments, promote social inclusion of CIND patients and encourage the community to get more involved. On every 12th May, ME advocacy groups therefore organise a number of events which seek to both educate and entertain with an aim to attract as many people as possible.
The 12th May has been chosen as the Awareness Day for CIND in honour of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the renowned English pioneer who is widely credited with the creation of modern nursing. During the Crimean War, Nightingale became a national heroine for nursing and training other nurses who cared for the wounded soldiers. Her greatest contribution to modern nursing, however, is the foundation of the world’s first (secular) nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1860. About the same time, Nightingale’s health began to deteriorate. In the late 1850s, she developed depression and with the exception of periodic improvements, she became virtually bed-bound. There have been suggestions that she suffered from brucellosis, while many also believe that Nightingale had ME and that depression was a symptom of this neurological condition.