Following the recent passing of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Richard Hook considers the lack of focus given to the Iron Lady's battle with dementia.
In the days following Baroness Thatcher's death earlier this month there was a deluge of opinions, stories and headlines written about Britain's only female Prime Minister.
Across various mainstream media outlets Mrs Thatcher was described as:
• "The woman who remade Britain"
• "A giant of the Cold War era"
• "A tough, controversial woman"
• "A loved and loathed political figure"
The papers tended to focus on her history with the unions, fractious relationship with her party and public and her legendary 'iron will', key to the decision to invade the Falkland Islands.
However, very few, if any, gave much focus to her position as patron of Alzheimer's Research UK and one of the most high-profile people in Britain to have dementia.
Many referred to her 'failing health' and 'deterioration', and reported the stroke that caused her passing, but it seems that mentioning the word dementia when talking about the former Prime Minister was rather taboo.
Following the announcement of her death, the Alzheimer's Society issued the following statement: "Today, up and down the country people will be sharing memories of Baroness Thatcher. At this time we hope people will also reflect on the impact dementia can have on a person’s life. By speaking openly about the effects of the condition, we will begin to tackle some of the stigma that still surrounds dementia and ensure that everyone gets the support they deserve."
Yet that plainly is not what has happened.
Despite the successes of initiatives like Time to Change and Dementia Friends in increasing the profile of the condition in the public consciousness, the lack of focus given to Baroness Thatcher's own dementia in articles dedicated to her memory suggest there is still a long way to go.
Perhaps Baroness Thatcher is a 'special case' with the press and public preferring to reflect on her steadfast ability 'not to turn' (regardless of whether they agreed with her policies or not) rather than her mental decline later in life.
But if newspapers can't speak on the impact of the condition from a third-person perspective then how can we hope to improve on the situation where three-quarters of people worry about talking to their about having a mental health problem, according to a Time to Change survey in February.
With so many willing to offer opinions on the former Conservative Party leader's political legacy, it would be nice to see such an open debate begin on her mental health and dementia legacy.
In parliamentary discussions Baroness Thatcher often dominated the floor; it's now open for discussion...