Week of events aims to break the taboo about death and dying

It’s a subject no one wants to think about, but one that sooner or later we all have to face. And next week in Leeds, a series of events and discussions will take place aimed at getting people talking about death.

Part of national Dying Matters awareness week (May 18-24) and supported by Leeds City Council, the events will all focus on helping people feel more comfortable talking about dying and discussing their end of life wishes with family, friends and health professionals.

Held every year in May, Dying Matters awareness week is now in its sixth year and will see events taking place across the country.Among those planned in Leeds will be a special “Death Café” hosted by Leeds Bereavement Forum at Oxford Place on May 20.

Child Bereavement UK will also be holding a workshop on May 14 and St Gemma’s Hospice will also be holding events at the hospice in Moortown on May 21.Those attending at St Gemma’s will be able to get advice and support from the team about writing a will, registering as a donor and telling relatives about funeral wishes

Aly Guy, a social worker at St Gemma’s said:

“Talking about dying and death is something people understandably feel uncomfortable about, but it is something we all need to do - otherwise we, or our loved ones, may not die in the way we want.

“It’s never easy to open up this type of conversation, but at St Gemma’s we do encourage people to do so.  That’s why we are using national Dying Matters week this year to run a special event aimed at talking about and tackling issuesrelated to death, dying or bereavement head on.  If St Gemma’s can’t talk about dying, who can?”

Councillor Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, said:

“Death is never an easy thing for anyone to talk about with their family and friends and there’s still a big taboo about discussing the subject openly.

"But however difficult those conversations are to have with the people close to you, it’s important that we try and break down that barrier so people feel empowered and encouraged to discuss their final wishes with those close to them.  By doing that, not only can they ensure that their final wishes are carried out, they can also make their deaths that little bit easier for those they leave behind.”

Bringing together a range of different agencies both locally and nationally, the Dying Matters campaign’s theme for this year is Talk, Plan, Live, and aims to help people feel more comfortable about planning for death.

A national survey carried out by Dying Matters found that 83% of the public believe that people in the UK are uncomfortable talking about death and dying. Only one in three adults has written a will and less than a third have let someone know their funeral wishes.  And more than half of people said they were unaware of what their partner’s end of life wishes are.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Councils executive member for health and wellbeing, said:

“Talking about death and dying can be some of the most difficult conversations that a person can ever have with family and loved one, but however hard it is, they are conversations that need to be had.

“It’s clear from the Dying Matters survey that the vast majority of the public simply do not feel comfortable broaching the subject with those close to them- and that reluctance is leaving people unprepared for questions that we will all have to face at some point.

“I hope that Dying Matters week will encourage people to have these conversations and get them thinking about the things they would like to have in place when the time comes.“

Find out what will be happening in Leeds during Dying Matters Awareness Week, by visiting the Dying Matters Coalition website: www.dyingmatters.org/events?filter_event_region=43

Further information about local end of life care support services is available on by visiting www.leedspalliativecare.co.uk

Anyone interested in attending events at St Gemma’s can contact 0113 218 5500 or email melaniew@st-gemma.co.uk.

People can also fill in Leeds City Council’s survey on their thoughts about death and dying at www.leeds.gov.uk/DyingMatters2015


Dying Matters factfile

- 83 per cent of the public believe people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing death and dying

.- Just over a third of people have registered as an organ donor.- Only 29 per cent of people have let someone know their funeral wishes.

- 500,000 people die each year in England. Although 60 percent of them dies in hospitals, 70 per cent of people would like to die at home.

Issued by:

Phil Morcom, Communications and Marketing team, Leeds City Council

4th Floor West, Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR

Mobile: 07891 276270