Peter Hook on the death of Ian Curtis and changing attitudes towards mental health

"It’s very difficult for some people to understand what Ian went through without going through it themselves, but the idea of encouraging people to talk as soon as possible and not be embarrassed or ashamed is the most important message"

Peter Hook has looked back on the death of his late Joy Division bandmate Ian Curtis to discuss the change in attitudes towards discussing mental health.

Curtis took his own life in 1980, after battling depression and epilepsy in his final years.

“The internet is a great communicator,” Hook told NME. “There are a great many problems in what and how people communicate, but people are a lot more educated these days when it comes to depression. Ian had a tough time. Mani [Stone Roses bassist] and I were talking recently about young Ian was to be burdened with the responsibility he was given.

“He was married at 19, he had a baby and a mortgage almost straight away. How many kids at 19 can boast that at this day and age? He was married at 19, with a baby, a mortgage and a full-time job – then he got into punk and formed a band. Then he got epilepsy.”

Hook continued: “When you start looking at the burdens he was carrying back then, it’s no wonder that they dragged him down. Back then the treatment for epilepsy was almost barbaric. The tablets he was taking were analysed in 2014 by modern day experts and they said that they were guaranteed to kill him.”

Now, as a patron of the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), Hook has hailed that the stigma around discussing mental health continues to be broken down – as well as urging others to speak out and seek help.

“The treatment has changed and society has changed,” Hook went on. “I do feel that people are more empathetic and open to education in those things. Myself and The Light have worked with two charities since 2010 – The Epilepsy Foundation and CALM. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 40.

“We’re looking at mental health in a positive way now so that people don’t have to go through what he went through. A bunch of idiots like us can even be educated. We were unaware of what Ian was going through. That, as an old bloke, is the most shocking aspect of it – how unprepared and uneducated we as his friends were. Any education and any communication about things like this towards avoiding what happened to Ian is the most important thing.”

Hook added: “The hardest thing in the world is knowing what people are going through. I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict, and coming to terms with something like that helps you understand it more. It’s very difficult for some people to understand what Ian went through without going through it themselves, but the idea of encouraging people to talk as soon as possible and not be embarrassed or ashamed is the most important message to get through to anyone: seek help.”

Joy Division New Order Dr Martens
Joy Division

This comes after Hook’s former bandmates in New Order also spoke out on the current state of mental health support and education.

“I’m not just talking about epilepsy but mental health issues for young people especially school kids it’s criminally underfunded,” said New Order frontman Sumner. “When the coalition government former, after the banking crisis in 2008, they underfunded the NHS and they completely underfunded help for young people with mental issues.”

“And it’s still the same way and it’s young kids at school that really, really need help and they’ve just been abandoned. And that’s going to create a time bomb for this government and this country – attention needs to be brought to it. It’s disgusting.”

Drummer Stephen Morris went on to say that there had been a positive change in attitudes towards battling the stigma that surrounds discussing mental health.

He said: “Ian had epilepsy and it’s an illness people have got much better at understanding nowadays and it’s great that people are aware of all kinds of mental illness from getting really depressed to schizophrenia.

“It’s much better understood than it was in the 70s. And I think that kind of attitude affected Ian a little bit because he had it and he knew that that was an attitude that existed at the time and thank god we’ve moved on a bit.”


Peter Hook

Peter Hook Presents Joy Division Orchestrated will take place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Friday July 5. Tickets are on sale from 9am on October 5 and will be available here.

Meanwhile, Peter Hook & The Light will also embark on a 2019 UK tour to perform New Order’s ‘Technique’ and ‘Republic’ in full. Full dates are below and tickets are available here.

Thursday February 7 2019 – NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Friday February 8 2019 – HOLMFIRTH Picturedrome
Saturday February 9 2019 – LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Thursday February 21 2019 – COLCHESTER Arts Centre
Friday February 22 2019 – BRIGHTON Concorde 2
Saturday February 23 2019 – CARDIFF Tramshed

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