#Let’s Talk “Control”: Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and the silent epidemic of male suicide

#Bell Let’s Talk is a multi-year program to raise awareness on mental health issues. Each time you tweet on January 25, 2017 using #BellLetsTalk, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives.

To help raise awareness and empathy, I’m highlighting a specific aspect of mental health that does not get enough attention: the silent epidemic of male suicide.

Some statistics I’ve come across are quite alarming, I’ll briefly share them below. This personally resonates with me as I’ve experienced bouts of depression in my life.

Since this is a movie blog, I’m also recommending an underrated film, “Control”, that touches on this subject matter.

Control is a 2007 biographical film on Ian Curtis, singer/lyricist for the post-punk English band Joy Division in the late 70’s – 80. Even if you know nothing about Joy Division, there are two great reasons to check out Control.

Firstly, it’s a terrific debut performance from actor Sam Riley. Secondly, the music is haunting and powerful as are Ian Curtis’ dark, introspective lyrics. Of course, there are many other reasons why “Control” is worth watching.

To give a quick backstory, “She’s Lost Control” is a song from Joy Division’s first album about a girl suffering from epilepsy, a condition which later afflicted Ian Curtis. His onstage dancing incorporated twitchy movements reminiscent of seizures. He was simply lost in the music, although there were times he had to be carried off stage after an actual seizure.

Sadly his epilepsy and depression got worse. I heard that there were times he was too afraid to hold his baby because of the seizures. At the age of 23, Ian Curtis committed suicide, leaving behind a wife, a daughter and a musical career.

Directed by Anton Corbijn, Control does not judge Ian Curtis’ ultimate decision and the film is stronger for that reason. I think it’s hard for people who have never experienced major depression to understand that it’s not as simple as “just think happy thoughts”. There is  a gap in empathy particularly for male suicide victims.

Control references wife Deborah Curtis’ biography titled Touching from A Distance. It’s an appropriate title (and reference to a song lyric) because Ian Curtis remains enigmatic. Even after a 2 hour film about his music and life, we can’t truly get inside his head.

The complexity of male suicide is not understood and there isn’t enough evidence to support speculative explanations. In general, there is a lack of public awareness, lack of research in many areas such as causal factors and gender specific preventative strategies and an unwillingness for male victims to get help.

Here’s are some bullet points from a peer reviewed journal article:

• In Canada, the male suicide rate is about three times that of women.

• Across all countries reporting the data (except China and India) males show a suicide rate that is 3.0 to 7.5 times that of women.

• Men are more likely to use suicide methods of high lethality, methods with increased risk of death.

• Men’s lack of social support, relative to that available to women, has been implicated as a risk factor in male suicide.

• Men also show much higher levels of alcohol abuse—given the pervasive effects associated with abuse of alcohol and other drugs, it is not surprising to find an associated increase in suicide.

Some ways to look after your mental health

Do more of the things that make you feel great and help you to de-stress

Spend time with friends

Share what’s going on, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed

If you or someone you know needs help, call a local crisis line.

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