The Rock, with his aggressively enthusiastic personality and endless supply of optimism, isn't someone you'd think of as being profoundly affected by suicide. But someone's outward personality doesn't necessarily reflect their past, and on Thursday, Dwayne Johnson opened up about the very real history of mental health issues in his family, as well as a loved one's suicide attempt.
Johnson posted a behind-the-scenes shot from the set of Ballers, his critically acclaimed HBO comedy about a beleaguered sports agent trying to make it big. In the scene, Johnson's character Spencer Strasmore mourns his brother, William, in a cemetery, after he took his own life.
"Got me thinkin’ though bout how many of us have been affected by suicide of our friends, family," Johnson wrote. "Struggle and pain is real. We’ve all been there on some level or another."
Johnson then went on to describe how his own family was affected by mental illness. "My mom tried to check out when I was 15. She got outta the car on Interstate 65 in Nashville and walked into oncoming traffic," Johnson wrote. "Big rigs and cars swerving outta the way not to hit her. I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoulder of the road. What’s crazy about that suicide attempt is to this day, she has no recollection of it whatsoever. Probably best she doesn’t."
It's clear that shooting the scene was difficult for Johnson, but he said it reminded him of some useful advice for how guys can help their friends and family members overcome mental health issues.
It was, he said, "a reminder that we always gotta do our best to really pay attention when people are in pain. Help ‘em thru it, get ‘em talkin’ about the struggle and remind ‘em that they’re not alone."
As far as prevention goes, a big step is understanding the signs and symptoms that someone is feeling suicidal. If a friend or loved one has a history of depression or self-harm, major life disruptions like losing your job or a major breakup can be incredibly triggering.
Depression is an illness that men just don't talk about. In 2015, only 5 percent of men reported feeling a major depressive episode, but therapists think that number is way lower than the truth.
“Men are diagnosed about half as frequently as women with depression—but that’s still a lot,” Ronald Levant, Ed.D., cofounder of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, previously told Men's Health. “It is the most frequently diagnosed mental illness by a long shot and there are still a lot of men who suffer with it.”
If you or anyone else you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harm, please seek professional mental health care or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, which will connect you confidentially to a counselor at a suicide crisis center 24/7. If you believe that you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.