Friday 20 October 2017

Love Actually director Richard Curtis tells of pain of losing his sister to suicide

Love Actually director Richard Curtis
Love Actually director Richard Curtis
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Love Actually director Richard Curtis has spoken of the pain of losing his sister to suicide.

Curtis' sister Belinda died on the day before her 55th birthday party, and had been battling mental health issues for 25 years.

Mr Curtis, who also wrote the scripts for Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, said that even with his privileged life, he wasn't able to give his sister the help she needed to heal.

"I was so privileged and we had so much money and so much access and still couldn’t do anything. I can’t believe what it must be like for someone whose relatives aren’t in that situation and they have nothing," he said at the Public Health England conference at Warwick University last Tuesday.

His voice breaking, Curtis said: “My sister took her own life after years of battles. My daughter is partly hit by it [mental health problems] because she had an operation that went wrong and spent four years in her bedroom screaming. The designer of the movie I’m working on took his life on Tuesday.”

“You have to be aware how much we’re failing. We had a 25-year stab at trying to help my sister and couldn’t do it...”

"The lack of resources available - the lack of beds, the places she should have gone there was just no space,” he said.

However, he said he believes the family did everything right by his sister.

“I so don’t believe in thinking about what you could have done. I can’t talk about it, I get too emotional, but the circumstances of my sister’s suicide could not have been jollier, as it were."

“They were shopping for her birthday party the next day, they couldn’t have done anything more right, and yet that was still the day she chose to take her own life. I don’t think it’s in our hands.”

Curtis called for “an open society” where people address mental health issues head-on.

“I suddenly feel, particularly with this young generation, that they understand that mental illness - it isn’t the same as physical illness - but it is as complicated, as in need of work, progress, care, than ever before.”

"I think it will be one of the huge things in the next 10 years."

"I think the answer is to continue to focus on it so that it does become a priority and we gain expertise and get more resources."

"If we are more open as a society, it will help people who are struggling to feel able to seek help without fear of being judged."

"The earlier they seek that help, the more chance there is they will get effective help, rather than descending into a crisis that is harder to recover from."

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