Actor and semi-retired pro-wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson opened up to the Hollywood Reporter this week about his difficult childhood and his struggle with depression as an adult. An admission like that is huge coming from anyone in the public spotlight, but it’s particularly important that Johnson was willing to talk about this because of the stigma surrounding mental health today- especially for young men. Looking at Johnson all you can really see is confidence and a fantastic exuberance for life, not someone you’d guess as having struggled with something as dark and heavy as depression.
Johnson said in the interview that he always felt empty and that he “didn’t want to do a thing and never wanted to go anywhere.” He later goes on to recall that he was frequently caught up in bouts of crying and had felt a profound loss of purpose in his life. Anyone who’s been diagnosed with clinical depression or Major Depressive Disorder can relate to Johnson’s sentiments.
But behind the crippling feelings of loss and emptiness there lies another battle for those living with mental illness and it’s that of the everyday stigmas that exist almost everywhere you turn. Whether it’s scheduling a regular therapist appointment or sitting in an Emergency Room after a suicide attempt, it's virtually impossible not to feel judged in some way - even if no one else is around. So what sets off this feeling of impending judgment in those seeking or thinking of seeking treatment?
Take the media as the strongest and most consistent example of stigma against mental illness and mental disorders. Every time a national tragedy occurs, usually a shooting or something of a similar nature, without fail the first thing people in the media tend to say is that the perpetrator likely had some form of mental illness and by extension everyone around you starts saying it too. Mental illness serves as the scapegoat for nearly every unpleasant thing that happens, most likely because its an easy excuse that relinquishes personal responsibility from both the perpetrator and the community.
But the effects of this scapegoating are that people who actually do have these issues are made out to be violent and irrational. Given what you hear about Schizophrenics would you ever admit to having Schizophrenia? Despite the media sticking every heinous crime underneath the mental health umbrella, the vast majority of those living mental health disorders are non-violent and fully functioning.
Dwayne Johnson’s bravery in his admission to having lived with mental health issues is an enormous step in the right direction as it serves as a gleaming example that just because you’ve dealt with these problems doesn’t mean that you’ll end up being the next Columbine shooter or the next Elliot Rodger. That's a message that so many mental health patients desperately need to hear.