Cody Curtis of Bath is the screenwriter, director and producer of “Suffocation,” an upcoming film that delves into depression, anxiety and loss. Courtesy Cody Curtis

BATH — “Suffocation,” a film written by Cody Curtis that he plans to direct and produce this fall, dives into people’s struggles with depression, anxiety and loss.

At the end of that long, dark tunnel, it also offers the light of hope.

Curtis, a Bath resident who graduated this year from the University of Southern Maine, and his crew of about 15 Maine residents mostly in their late teens and early 20s, have raised the $5,000 necessary to make the film. Inspired by the mission of Greater Portland Health, which offers affordable and accessible care to people of all cultures, Curtis aims to donate at least 10% of the film’s proceeds to that nonprofit organization, which has offices in Portland and South Portland.

“This is an organization whose theme and message aligns with the film,” Curtis said. “Mental health is very important.”

And it’s the focus of “Suffocation,” which tells the tale of Jasmine (played by Campbell Gibson of Waterville), who is reeling from the suicide of her best friend, Owen (played by Curtis). Jasmine is romantically involved with Owen’s brother, Zachery, played by Travis Harden of Bridgton.

After Owen’s suicide, “her world completely falls apart; her relationship is destroyed,” as Zachery becomes more closed-off and toxic to be around, Curtis said. That negatively impacts Jasmine’s life and forces her to choose whether to escape and be happy, or stay where she is and suffer the emotional damage.

Although the story is built around two people, “we wanted to show … many different sides to depression and anxiety, and how that effects people on an individual level, and on a different level,” Curtis said, noting that when one experiences a trauma such as a loved one’s loss and as a result feels deeply alone, “it’s almost like you can’t breathe.”

Curtis said he drew from losses in his personal life as he started the screenplay for “Suffocation” 10 months ago. Although Curtis began the project as a form of personal expression, he and his crew later realized how it could help others who are struggling with depression and anxiety, particularly this year.

“Suffocation” will be filmed in October and November. Courtesy / Cody Curtis

“It’s a story that we feel can do some real good for the rest of the world,” Curtis said.

To that end, the film’s message of hope is all the more important. “Even in the darkest of situations, even the darkest parts of my own life,” there’s always something – perhaps a favorite TV show or hobby – that can raise one out of that depression, he said.

Although the film’s themes are heavy, “we also want to give out the message that although people may feel alone and they may feel there’s nothing they can do and they feel miserable, there’ll always be somebody there,” be it a loved one or therapist, Curtis said.

Ann Tucker, chief executive officer of Greater Portland Health, said it was “an honor” that the film crew chose her organization for donation proceeds. Its patient number rose from about 8,000 in 2016 to about 12,600 in 2019, according to greaterportlandhealth.org.

Isolation and job losses are among the impacts on mental health she has seen on clients amid the pandemic, but telehealth has helped social workers and psychiatrists to keep in touch with clients, Tucker said. In difficult and uncertain times, she embraces the thread of hope “Suffocation” offers.

“That is important for everyone, to have the opportunity to get connected to the services that they need, to break down the stigma of getting help for your mental health,” Tucker said. “… And also know that there is hope, through counseling sessions and through having someone to talk to and to share. That you can get the tools that you need to cope with whatever is going on in your particular instance.”

“Suffocation” is scheduled for production in October and November, during which a COVID-19 specialist will be on set to ensure safety is maintained, Curtis said. The film may be available for general viewing by next spring or summer; more information is available at suffocationfilm2020.com.

Comments are not available on this story.