Anxiety and depression are the most common forms of mental illness in the world. Most people experience some form of both of them ranging in severity at some point in their lives. Still, many people choose to suffer in silence and hope that their feelings will just work themselves out. Men, in particular, are notorious for not wanting to talk about how they’re feeling. It can be hard for them to feel comfortable opening up when they’ve been raised to believe “real men don’t cry”.
In reality, men experience the same depth of emotion as women do. They get depressed and experience anxiety too—they just don’t seek help as willingly. While the stigma surrounding men and mental illness is still very much alive, many celebrities are doing their part by opening up about their own struggles with anxiety and depression. By speaking out, they’re demonstrating the key to dealing with these issues: talking about it.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
In an interview earlier this year, Dwayne Johnson talked about his past struggles with depression. He was only 15 years old when he witnessed his mother attempt suicide, so he knows the affect depression can have. “Struggle and pain is real. I was devastated and depressed,” Johnson said in an interview with The Daily Express. “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly.” Although The Rock has made a career out of playing hyper masculine characters, he has learned that there’s nothing wrong with opening up and admitting when you’re struggling emotionally. After all the positive responses to his story, Johnson tweeted “Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
In a New York Times profile in May of this year, Ryan Reynolds opened up about his lifelong struggle with anxiety. Despite the fact that he seems like an outgoing confident guy, he still gets nervous before appearances “both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum,” way. He talked about struggling with anxiety through his 20s saying “I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way.” He would often wake up at night paralyzed with anxiety about his future and started to self-medicate. He has since learned to deal with feelings in more positive ways such as using the Headspace app to meditate. He also credits his wife Blake Lively with helping him get more comfortable with opening up.
Zayn Malik was only 17 when he auditioned for X-Factor. Within a few months, he was a member of the most famous boy band in the world, embarking on international tours, performing in front of millions in sold out shows, and generally trying to navigate a life where privacy is no longer easy to come by. Since going solo in 2015, Zayn has opened up about suffering from an eating disorder and anxiety. “As a solo performer, I felt much more exposed, and the psychological stress of performing had just gotten to be too much for me to handle—at that moment, at least,” he wrote in his book, Zayn. He has called himself a not very social, outgoing person, which can be difficult when you’re as famous as he is. “I know I have fans out there who have been through this kind of thing, too, and I wanted to be honest for their sake, if nothing else,” he said.
Prince Harry was only 12 when his mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car accident. He was forced to grieve in the public eye which, anyone who has ever lost a loved one can understand, would be incredibly difficult. In the last few years, Prince Harry has spoken about how he chose to simply ignore his feelings rather than actively deal with them. He revealed in an interview that he finally sought help after 20 years of ignoring his emotions started to manifest in anger and anxiety. “I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle,” he revealed in an interview with Bryony Gordon for her podcast Mad World. He decided to open up about his struggles in the hope that it would help break the stigma surrounding mental health.
This year, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love wrote about his experiences with anxiety and panic attacks in a letter entitled “Everybody is Going Through Something” published on The Players’ Tribune. He describes himself as an introvert and talks about a panic attack he had during an important game. Athletes often find themselves in high pressure situations and it’s only natural that they would feel anxious at times. Love decided to open up about his own experiences following Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan’s admission that he has struggled with depression. “It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles—all kinds of things—and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them,” Love wrote. “The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with.”