Saturday, February 28, 2009

I wanted to share with you yet another story of suicide. I plan to post more about suicide because this topic is often subject to intense scrutiny and judgement. This judgment may be based on someone's inability to understand suicide. 

My husband told me about a movie we simply had to watch called "Control" (trailer seen here). All I knew was that the film depicted Joy Division's rise to fame. The band, formed in 1976, has influenced many former and current musical artists. I personally LOVE Joy Division's music/sound and encourage others to listen. 
"Control", told from the lead singer's point of view, follows Ian Curtis who evidently suffered from depression and epilepsy. His struggles with depression were fueled by a deteriorating marriage. He married quite young. He frequently suffered from seizures, even while on stage. "Curtis's writing was filled with imagery of emotional isolation, death, alienation, and urban decay. He once commented in an interview that he wrote about "the different ways different people can cope with certain problems, how they might or might not adapt"." This is clearly a statement which illustrates his own struggle to cope. 

It's important to point out that Ian's wife, Debrah, had discovered he was having an affair while on tour with his band. He had traveled home to persuade his wife to drop the divorce suit but was unsuccessful. Ian then told his wife to leave him alone in their house until the following day. She later discovered her husband had hung himself in their kitchen. After his death, Ian's bandmates confessed, "I think all of us made the mistake of not thinking his suicide was going to happen. We all completely underestimated the danger. We didn't take it seriously. That's how stupid we were." There were obvious red flags that both Debrah and the band were aware of. However, no one can ever predict if suicide will happen or not. If someone is determined, he/she may never confess thoughts of suicide. 

It is thought that Ian's depression intensified when he failed to balance his marriage with his musical career. He was also failing to cope with his epilepsy (he had violent seizures and was taking medicine). Annik HonerĂ©, who Ian had an affair with, was asked to comment on Joy Division's new album. She replied, "I'm terrified. Don't you understand? He means it." And I (the interviewer) go, "No, he doesn't mean it - it's art. And guess what? He fucking meant it." 

When someone dies from suicide, others may question whether or not they could have prevented it. Family and friends will wonder why their loved one chose to end his/her life. This search for an answer makes it very difficult to find closure. It can be hard to accept that someone was lost due to mental illness or intense emotional turmoil. We can accept that every instance of suicide is never the same and is very personal. When someone dies from a different disease (cancer, stroke, heart attack), people tend to mourn much differently. These types of death appear to be inevitable and out of the person's control. Suicide leaves most puzzled because there is this need to understand a person's choice to end the pain. Some may blame a person for choosing suicide. But can we blame someone for the mental disorder that caused suicide? No! Suicide is a coping mechanism that some may feel is the only way to escape. 

As with any death, suicide requires empathy/understanding, not judgement/criticism. Many family's will deny that suicide was a cause of death. They may say, "it was an accident" or never talk about their lost loved one because the shame is too great to bear. Shame, which at one time engrossed their loved one, can be adopted by a family. Some may even live with this shame/burden for their rest of their lives. In turn, a family will never mourn properly. In some cases these feelings can lead to depression. At times, I believe I may be suffering with a slight case of depression but I try to acknowledge that these feelings will come and go. I just try to cope in a healthy manner. 

Suicide may never be preventable but we can stop judging those who die from it. Mental illness is very real and suicide is the leading cause of death (with this illness). Some may think that suicide is a choice but mental illness, clearly, is not.  

This post may not be based on fact, but I do speak from experience. With suicide, there is no text book to guide you, only human emotion. Thanks for putting up with my strong opinions:)


  1. Hi AC,

    I used to play Joy Division on the radio when I was a disc jockey.

    You may be interested to hear of The Rita Project, an artists studio in Manhattan that helps survivors of suicide attempts cope through art therapy.

    Lastly, I know someone who heard voices and she attempted suicide not because she wanted to die, but because she wanted to get rid of the voices. Luckily her parents called an ambulance when they suspected what she was up to.


  2. Dear AC,

    Thankyou for taking the time to create this blog, it's truly an inspiration. I have had ongoing symptoms for about 6 years now, and early on I was really struggling. Along with trying to deal with my symptoms (which are auditory hallucinations) I was depressed and in denial because I was so fearful of not being able to live a normal life, and worried that people would judge me as "crazy" because of the stigma attached to SZ. Over the past 2 years, however, I've made some great achievements with the help of my family and friends. I'm setting goals for myself and reaching my goals. I'm currently working towards my undergrad degree and I am considering working with people with mental illness in the future as a counselor. I've been able to overcome my fears by recognizing that I am in control of my destiny. With the help of a community of support (Church, family, friends, significant other) and medication I have been able to minimize my symptoms and overcome the fears that were attached to them. I now know that when I hear voices in my head, it is because of internal fear and guilt about something that has happened in my life, manifested into those hallucinations. I want to tell anyone who has SZ to know that they aren't alone and even with symptoms, they can overcome their fears and take control of their life. I was able to realize that I was doing it to myself--the hallucinations weren't caused by anyone else but me, and they were there because of my own suppressed feelings! If you are scared, find help. Talk to a therapist and people you can trust. Document your goals and accomplishments in a daily journal. And always know that you can talk to God and pray for guidance and mental clarity.
    All the best,

  3. Cat,

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I am glad you like it. I think you are very brave to focus on your recovery. Setting goals is a very good idea. I also think it is great that you are going to inspire others by becoming a counselor. I meet so many people who enter the mental health field because they are directly affected by mental illness (individual or family members).

    I think that what you have accomplished is so inspiring. It seems like the biggest road block is trying to acknowledge your illness. My brother is on his way and I have faith that he will follow in your footsteps. If you haven't already, check out my exhibit and posters at the following address. I am trying to raise awareness and eliminate stigma.