There is some shocking news following the research done by Dr Charles Marshall from Queen Mary University of London, which shows that there is an increased suicide risk for people who are diagnosed with dementia.
The study looked at a significant number of patients from the data and showed that although the suicide rate is 2.4%, which is a low rate, it is nevertheless higher than the average. What the study also showed was that the risk of suicide did not increase if the diagnosis of dementia was done over the age of 65, however for younger people, the risk of suicide increased by 6.69 times more likely.
The study is detailed and complex and looked at other factors including co-morbidities. However this headline finding of the increased rate of suicide for younger onset people is of concern.
It would appear therefore that this group of younger onset people with dementia will need support to transition their experience from the life that they had once planned to their new life, living with dementia.
I am not anti-suicide, nor am I against assisted dying, anyone is allowed to take this course of action if they wish, it was decriminalised in the 60s. There are laws against aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring, which means that it is criminal to assist or encourage someone to take their own life, but not the act itself. Because it is an option for me, I would not want another human to be denied this option, if they thought that it was the right thing for themselves.
However, big however, if I was sufficiently unhappy with my life that I considered suicide, then I would hope that the necessary people within my community would provide me with some support, so that all avenues of response to the situation are explored before this final step is taken.
So for people with dementia, this means that they will need support from both health and social care services, but the response of a community should be far wider than that. People who live in the community need help and support from anyone they might come into contact with, as we all do. If I am just going to the supermarket, I want the people who work there to treat me with dignity and respect and to help me if I need help. This means that all services should look at how dementia and disability friendly they are. People need support from their friends and family, I know lots of people with dementia, that still love football, or signing or going to the church, or out to the pub for lunch…..
If this affects you, either directly or you know someone who might be affected by this issue, then it is clear that you are not alone. Life is difficult, if you are not finding it difficult, then you are not engaged with all aspects of life, this just is how it is for all of us. We can have good days, as well as bad ones, this is all part of life and has nothing to do with dementia. It just is. If you are affected, then I would encourage you to seek support, in whatever form is meaningful to you.