Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson displayed his signature strength recently — not inside a wrestling ring, but by speaking openly about living with depression. In a recent interview with the U.K. publication Express, Hollywood’s highest-paid star talks about his mother’s suicide attempt, how it impacted his mental health and how he started to heal.
“Struggle and pain is real. I was devastated and depressed,” Johnson told Express. “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly.”
When Johnson was 15, he and his mother, Ata, were evicted from their apartment. Several months later, she tried to end her own life in front of him by getting out of the car on Interstate 65 in Nashville and walking into oncoming traffic as cars and semitrailers swerved out of the way, he told Express. Thankfully, she survived.
“I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoulder of the road,” he added. “What’s crazy about that suicide attempt is that to this day, she has no recollection of it whatsoever. Probably best she doesn’t.”
Next, Johnson tried to become a professional football player, and despite being signed to the Canadian Football League, he was let go after one season because of his numerous injuries. Soon after that, his girlfriend ended their relationship.
“That was my absolute worst time,” he said.
Thankfully, we all know this story has a happy ending: After a hugely successful career in professional wrestling, Johnson took up acting in 2000 and has been dominating the box office ever since.
But, as he told Express, if he didn’t get a handle on his depression, he could have also had suicidal thoughts like his mother.
“We both healed but we’ve always got to do our best to pay attention when other people are in pain,” he said. “We have to help them through it and remind them they are not alone.”
And that’s exactly what Johnson is doing. Once, when a fan wrote to him to say that he was struggling with depression, Johnson wrote back: “I hear you. I’ve battled that beast more than once.”
While this may seem like another celebrity interview, what Johnson is saying about mental health is hugely important. Many view him as the pinnacle of masculinity, and the fact that he is openly acknowledging that he cries and has normal emotional reactions — as well as depression — helps to erode the notion that men should never display feelings or perceived weaknesses (a primary component of toxic masculinity).
The more men out there are normalizing this conversation — especially highly visible ones like Johnson — the closer we get to viewing depression as a legitimate health condition.
If you’re looking for resources for helping a friend or loved one or trying to get information about treatment for yourself, you can turn to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling them at 1-800-273-8255.