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New Order’s Bernard Sumner slams ‘ludicrous’ NHS mental health waiting times

New Order’s Bernard Sumner has slammed the “ludicrous” waiting times for mental health help on the NHS.

The 66-year-old musician spoke as part of a suicide prevention panel at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, on Wednesday (18.05.22), 42 years to the day his late Joy Division bandmate Ian Curtis took his own life aged 23 in 1980.

Bernard – who continued to perform under the new name New Order with Joy Division bandmates Peter Hook and Stephen Morris following Ian’s death – shared the heartbreaking story of a friend’s daughter, who died from suicide after being told she would face an 18-month wait to receive any help from the NHS.

He said during the session: “You can’t go on a waiting list if you are thinking of killing yourself. It’s ludicrous.

“You can’t wait 18 months. You need help straight away.”

Bernard went on to describe Ian as a “happy-go-lucky guy”, whose “personality changed” when he was taking barbiturates – a drug that acts as a central nervous system depressant – which can become addictive.

He said of Ian: “You look at old photographs of Ian from that period and a lot of photographs are of him with his head in his hands in rehearsal rooms.

“He wasn’t really like that. The photographs that are like that were taken in the two weeks before he died. The rest of the time – most of the rest of the time – he was fine.

“But it was the barbiturates that changed his personality. He also had relationship problems… and I think maybe because of the barbiturates they were emphasised.

“I think he felt very guilty about his relationship problems. I think maybe he took his own life because of the guilt he felt. He wanted to punish himself – but (it was) accentuated by these barbiturates.”

Bernard’s bandmate Stephen, 64, was also in attendance and urged those struggling to speak to someone.

He added: “I think the problem with Ian and with depression and anything like that – you get yourself in a certain situation where you are boxing yourself in and you don’t know who you can talk to.”

The session took place amid Mental Health Awareness Week.

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