When the actor and wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson opens up on his own fight with depression, it’s surely time for everyone to wake up, ditch the stigma and recognise that mental illness is for real. If one of the biggest and wealthiest stars on the planet has the courage to talk about the demons he has suffered, we are not alone. Except that it doesn’t feel that way.
When I was struggling through school, with largely untreated mental health issues, I thought it was just me. It was just me because everyone else seemed to be doing so much better than me. Getting through my six years at secondary school was, it turned out, an epic feat of bluster and bluff, all assisted by Oscar winning acting performances. How else could I possibly get through all those lessons where nothing made sense without busking it?
Of course, when I was a teenager, mental health problems only existed at the most extreme end. If you were mentally ill it meant effectively that you were destined to spend your days at Barrow Gurney because you would require a straitjacket and strong drugs. My, how things have changed.
It turned out that millions of people were afflicted by mental health problems, it’s just that no one realised. It is likely that the changing society has provided for us an epidemic of mental health but the reality is that that epidemic was there all along. It was just undiagnosed. Now, barely a day goes by without someone famous or someone not famous showing the courage to ‘come out’. It’s good and it isn’t good.
It’s good because its good to talk but it’s bad because there’s often no one to talk to, unless you can afford it. Sometimes, you can’t even get the diagnosis which will take you in the direction of the appropriate treatment so paying for private therapy can be an almighty and costly gamble, which is essentially an alternative to nothing at all.
Thankfully, The Rock is recovering well from his illness which should give hope and strength to everyone else. Whatever you do, don’t just leave it and hope it will all go away. The side of the road is littered with the victims who suffered and died because no one was there for them. Don’t let the next victim be you.