World Suicide Prevention Day takes place every year on September 10th. This year, the theme is ‘Creating Hope Through Action’, which encourages both organisations and individuals around the world to promote awareness, and to decrease stigmatisation around suicide. It is estimated that approximately 703,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year, and over 1 in every 100 deaths in the year 2019 were the result of suicide. While hesitance is understandable, the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) stress that to speak openly about suicide and suicidal thoughts, gives people the confidence to take action.
Creating Hope Through Action is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide, and that our actions (no matter how big or small) have the power to provide hope to those who are struggling. There are many risk factors and contributors to suicidal thoughts, and these vary from person to person, meaning suicide prevention can be complex and extremely personal. This is why it is often through the actions of those closest to us that we find hope and the confidence to seek help. While suicide may be a difficult issue to discuss particularly among loved ones, evidence suggests that having a conversation about suicide does not instigate contemplation or encourage those affected to take action, but rather allows them the much-needed opportunity to talk to someone that they trust about how they truly feel.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that approximately 40% of those living with Alzheimer’s related disorders experience depression and identifies that memory loss, or loss of cognition, is a serious contributor to depression and suicide. Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be frightening, especially due to the negative stigma that surrounds dementia. Many people feel a sense of embarrassment or isolation as a result of their diagnosis, which can lead to depression or suicidal thoughts. Those who have previously experienced mental health difficulties are more likely to be affected negatively by their dementia, which is why effective support is essential to avoid feelings of helplessness. Mental health struggles are often difficult to identify, which can be made even more challenging by difficulties in communication between those living with the condition and their loved ones.
Depression is also common among those with dementia due to hallucinations causing anxiety and paranoia, isolation and lack of (familial) support, memory loss causing stress and helplessness, the side effects of certain medications, the jeopardization of someone’s money, relationships and future, as well as this sense of burdensomeness. It is important to note that those living with vascular dementia are typically more likely to experience depression, as they may be more aware of their condition. These harmful stigmas about those with dementia being less capable or coherent can result in an unnecessary sense of sensationalised panic. At ADSS, we are particularly passionate about advocating for those with dementia, to lead fulfilling, active, involved lives. With the right support network, and by creating hope through action, we can all make a difference to the lives of those who are struggling with depressive or suicidal thoughts.
If you notice someone you suspect may be struggling and experiencing frequent low moods, disturbed sleep, uncharacteristic irritability, or begin to give away personal items, do not be afraid to speak to them directly, or seek help from a professional, such as Samaritans’ 24-hour suicide prevention helpline (116 123) or SPUK (Suicide Prevention – UK) 0800 6895652.