Suicide in frontotemporal dementia and Huntington disease: analysis of family-reported pedigree data and implications for genetic healthcare for asymptomatic relatives

Adrienne Sexton, Kirsty West, Gulvir Gill, Allan Wiseman, Jessica Taylor, Rebecca Purvis, Michael Fahey, Elsdon Storey, Maie Walsh, Paul James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Genomic testing for early-onset dementia is becoming more accessible, along with predictive testing for at-risk relatives; however, complex counselling issues are important to address. The topic of suicide often has stigma associated, and thoughts or experiences may not be volunteered without prompting. Little has been published with consideration to suicide rates in the context of family experiences and their significance in genetic counselling for relatives of people with Huntington disease and frontotemporal dementia. Design: This study included pedigree information for 267 symptomatic individuals with frontotemporal dementia or Huntington disease, provided via genetic counselling clinics. Main Outcome Measures: Descriptive statistics and suicide rate calculations based on family reported pedigree data. Results: The suicide rate was 2996 per 100,000 compared with the population rate of 10 per 100,000. Approximately one in 15 families reported suicide of an affected family member, and file notes indicated that one in five families had experienced suicide, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts in one or more affected, unaffected or pre-symptomatic relative. Conclusion: Health professional awareness of family experiences, including suicide of a relative, is vital in facilitating client decisions about genetic testing, and in providing adequate psychosocial support during the process of genetic testing and adaption to results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1397-1402
Number of pages6
JournalPsychology and Health
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • frontotemporal dementia
  • genetic counselling
  • Huntington disease
  • predictive genetic testing
  • suicide rate

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