Every year suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally but preventing suicide is often possible and you may not realise the impact your compassion and support can have. As it is Mental Health Awareness Week we felt it was the appropriate time to share David’s story with you.
David spent much of his working life overseas in middle Europe on specialist projects. He has worked for many high-profile employers including Harrods and the Sultan of Brunei. He was somewhat of an expert in his field and was regarded very highly for his tremendous work standard and eye for detail.
Once permanently settled back in England, David had 3 children with his wife and was quite the doting dad. One day David was due to collect the children from school and decided to take a nap on the sofa beforehand. Upon waking from his sleep, he was horrified to find he was unable to see and was totally and utterly blind. Over the course of 9 weeks his sight gradually returned, and a very confused and frightened David saw a number of health professionals where he was tested for various different conditions, but the answer was not one he was expecting.
David was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of dementia which is characterised by several small strokes. This form of dementia is a genetic condition which can have a severe impact on a person’s speech, vision and cause numbness down one side of the body. As the condition progresses cognitive problems become more apparent and it usually presents itself between the age of 30 and 60 years old, meaning it is a form of young-onset dementia.
One aspect of this disease is the ruthless inheritance pattern that it pursues. There is a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene from a parent with this type of dementia and it is that frightening reality that David struggled to come to terms with.
Burdened with intense fear and guilt David sent himself crashing into a downward spiral of depression. Acting on terror he began lashing out at the world, afraid that his children could potentially be carrying the faulty gene. After the breakdown of his marriage, David struggled to cope and decided he did not want to live anymore. Even though his children had not been tested he blamed himself for the possibility that they could develop the disease and the guilt became too much for him to carry on his shoulders.
In 2017 David was referred to our services where we paired him up with Tom, one of our care support workers. Tom was able to listen to David and talk him out of a very dark place, eventually befriending him. Tom found David to be extremely isolated due to his location so he helped him to get a bus pass which enabled David to travel around and maintain his independence. They started to do activities during their time together such a visiting garden centres and going out for lunch. His favourite thing to do was simply sit in his garden and chat with Tom, showing him all the incredible work he had been doing to the garden since he last saw him.
David now attends several of our support and activity groups and pops in to our community café on a regular basis where he spends most of the time cracking jokes and making everybody laugh. You can always guarantee that if David has come to see us, he leaves absolutely everyone with a smile on their face.
Once introduced to the wealth of support available to him David was able come to terms with the diagnosis, what it could potentially mean for his children and he understands that you can only control the controllable which has helped to alleviate some of the guilt he felt.
Support is available from Samaritans by calling 116 123 or if you would prefer to email firstname.lastname@example.org
For all dementia related concerns please contact us on 01474 533990 or email email@example.com
You can also call the 24hr Kent Dementia Helpline on 0800 500 3014
Abbie Boyd, Communications Officer