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Think again: Mental illness isn’t a phase, Mom

Earlier this April, former professional wrestler and current actor and producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson revealed he struggled with depression starting at 15 years old. At that time, his family, barely getting by, had been evicted from their apartment and had their car repossessed. Shortly after, his mother had walked onto oncoming traffic and he pulled her out of the way. Seeing his mother almost die by suicide greatly affected him and, as a result, his depression followed him throughout high school and college.

But there’s a happy ending to this, folks. He found “inner strength” and was able to turn around from college dropout to star football player to great wrestler to super famous Hollywood star, per Fox and CNBC. 

It’s just an accelerated angsty phase he went through and all people have to do is just find their inner strength and they’ll beat mental illness! 

Wow, I wish it was that easy for me. I wonder what’s taking me so long then, especially since my mental health issues started before high school. Oh, wait: It’s because my anxiety and depression aren’t just phases from my angsty adolescent and teen years. That’s right. 

I’m not knocking The Rock for having – seemingly – recovered from his depression. All the more power to him, as a matter of fact. My problem is that Fox and CNBC are treating his depression as just a phase in his life he was unfortunate to have, but then he grew out of it and became this super amazing athlete and Hollywood star.

If you believe hard enough, get some strength – physical and mental – and have a positive mental attitude, you too could become an amazing athlete and a Hollywood star. Or whatever you want to be. Mental illness can’t be any more complicated than that, according to these articles. It’s the journalistic version of the parental “you’ll grow out of it” advice; except, since we’re dealing with mental illness here, this implicit advice is very dismissive of a real issue.   

Even more upsetting, the Fox article calls The Rock’s statement his “opening up about his secret battle with mental health,” as if mental health isn’t something to be discussed openly. Discussing your own mental illness and mental health is apparently highly discouraged.

I’d let it slide if it had just said his battle with mental health. But secret battle? This implies The Rock didn’t want to let it be known he was suffering from mental illness, which, according to British newspaper The Guardian, is far from the case. 

While The Guardian does something similar in mentioning The Rock’s occupation and political aspirations, they do so at the very end and only as a “by the way, this is who he is, if you don’t know already.” None of this “he grew out of it and became a superstar” nonsense. They give him as much of his own voice as possible. They even include his message telling men – men, not boys, per the article – to “not be afraid to open up” when it comes to mental health. Mental illness, after all, isn’t merely a teen angst problem. 

Also, unlike Fox and CNBC, The Guardian includes crisis hotlines for the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as the United States and Australia at the end in the event anyone reading needs mental health crisis support. This is really the first time I’ve read an article outside of mental health advocacy circles where that has been included. I hope more news organizations include that when talking about mental health.

Mental illness does not discriminate based on age and it certainly can’t be cured by positive mental attitude alone. 

In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers and the number one leading cause for teenage girls. And according to the World Health Organization, approximately 15 percent of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder.

It’s time we start treating mental illness like the public health crisis that it is. After all, mental illness isn’t merely a teen angst problem.


The views and opinions expressed in the Editorial section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors. The Chronicle reserves the right to not publish any piece that does not meet our editorial standards.

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