Movie star, semi-retired professional wrestler, and infamously really nice guy Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson opened up about his experience with depression Thursday night at the European premiere of Rampage. The 45-year old said he was “moved” by fans that have reached out since he spoke candidly about mental illness in an interview earlier in April, reiterating that openly talking about depression is one of the things that helped him go through his own episodes.
“We as men have a tendency to hold all that in which is not healthy, it’s not good,” Johnson told the BBC at the London Rampage screening on Wednesday. “Depression doesn’t discriminate so if my past can help then I’m happy to share.”
Johnson is right that dealing with depression is a different experience for men as it is for women. An estimated six million American men suffer from depression annually, though the actual number might be even higher because men are less likely than women to report their depression. Men are also less likely to seek help for mental health problems in general, often disguising their symptoms with overwork and risky behavior. Studies consistently find male depression is unrecognized, undiagnosed, and untreated — an epidemic that can have tragic consequences.
Like other real and treatable illness, depression manifests differently for individuals. Scientists are beginning to recognize the idea of “male-based depression” as something that may, in part, stem from the societal constructs that tell men that they’re inferior if they express sadness.
“The masculine depression framework hypothesizes that the struggle to adhere to hegemonic masculine norms places men at risk for experiencing an alternative depression variant often characterized by externalizing symptoms,” researchers explain in a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry. “Rather than appearing sad, men experiencing emotional pain are more likely to react with anger, self-destructive behavior, self-distraction, or numbing of pain with substance use, gambling, womanizing, and workaholism.”
When Johnson says men typically “hold all that in,” he is, in a way, referring to something psychologists call “normative male alexithymia”, which is the term for the issues males experience expressing their emotions in general, which could hinder them from seeking treatment. Clinicians are aware that they need to look for different depression danger signs in men and women but maintain that people of all genders need those close to them to offer support, patience, and encouragement. As simple as it may sound, talking and listening carefully to people who are depressed are key ways to show that you feel their thoughts and feelings are important.
“We both healed but we’ve always got to do our best to pay attention when other people are in pain,” Johnson said in an April interview with Express. Both Johnson and his mother have struggled with depression. “We have to help them [others] through it and remind them they are not alone.”