Dwayne John­son on de­pres­sion

Ac­tor Dwayne John­son shares his strug­gle with de­pres­sion and ex­plains why he be­lieves suf­fer­ers should be bet­ter sup­ported


HE WAS 15 years old when he wit­nessed some­thing that would haunt him for the rest of his life. His mother, des­per­ate and pen­ni­less, parked her car at the side of a high­way and walked straight into on­com­ing traf­fic.

Her son sprang into ac­tion. Tall, mus­cu­lar and strong for his age, he leapt out of the car and yanked her out of the way of ve­hi­cles bar­relling to­wards her.

Three decades have passed since the life-chang­ing in­ci­dent, and Dwayne “The Rock” John­son and his fam­ily will never have to worry about money again. He’s one of the high­est paid movie stars in the world, earn­ing around $22 mil­lion (R265 mil­lion) a film, and his ac­tion mega-movies rou­tinely top box-of­fice charts.

Yet that day when his mom, Ata (now 69), nearly took her life led to feel­ings of de­pres­sion that still plague him to­day.

The 45-year-old star re­cently delved into his per­sonal battle, en­cour­ag­ing other men not to keep silent about their in­ner demons.

“De­pres­sion never dis­crim­i­nates,” he told his 12,5 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers. “It took me a long time to re­alise it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Es­pe­cially us dudes who have a ten­dency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”

Dwayne, who’s pro­mot­ing his lat­est block­buster, Ram­page, also told Bri­tish news­pa­per the Sun­day Ex­press he reached a point where he didn’t want to do any­thing or go any­where af­ter watch­ing his mother’s near sui­cide. “I was cry­ing con­stantly.” An­other trig­ger for his pub­lic con­fes­sion was a recent episode of his TV show Ballers in which his char­ac­ter, Spencer Strasmore, vis­its the grave of his brother who com­mit­ted sui­cide.

“Got me think­ing about how many of us have been af­fected by sui­cide of friends or fam­ily,” he wrote, this time on In­sta­gram. “Strug­gle and pain are real. We’ve all been there on some level or an­other.

“My mom tried to check out when I was 15. She got out of the car and walked into on­com­ing traf­fic. Big rigs and cars swerv­ing out of the way not to hit her. I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoul­der of the road.

“To this day she has no rec­ol­lec­tion of it what­so­ever. Prob­a­bly best she doesn’t.”

DWAYNE’S so­cial me­dia posts are usu­ally a mix of pics of him work­ing out, which he does daily and with great in­ten­sity, goof­ing around or pro­mot­ing his many movie projects. So it was a sur­prise when he ven­tured into some­thing a lot deeper.

“We [have to] do our best to re­ally pay at­ten­tion when peo­ple are in pain,” he wrote. “Help them through it, get them talk­ing about the strug­gle and re­mind them they’re not alone.”

His in­ti­mate post quickly notched up 1,5 mil­lion likes, with fans and fel­low ac­tors thank­ing him for shar­ing his story.

Although this was the first time Dwayne had spo­ken pub­licly about his mom’s near-sui­cide, he’s been open in the past about his dif­fi­cult child­hood.

His dad, Rocky John­son (73), was a pro­fes­sional wrestler long be­fore WWE

‘Strug­gle and pain are real. We’ve all been there on some level’

crafted a global cult of celebrity around the ath­letes.

Back then wrestlers lived like no­mads, ek­ing out a liv­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of Amer­ica for a few months be­fore mov­ing on.

By the time Dwayne reached high school he’d lived in 13 states and “life sucked”.

“I’d just be get­ting set­tled and then it’s the anx­i­ety of a new school, new friends . . . ”

When he turned 12 things got re­ally rough. His par­ents moved to Hawaii, where his mom’s fam­ily lived. His dad worked less and his par­ents ar­gued con­stantly.

“Times were lean,” he told The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter re­cently.

He watched his par­ents strug­gle to af­ford the ba­sics as they were evicted from their apart­ment and had their car re­pos­sessed. “We come home and there’s a pad­lock on the door and an evic­tion no­tice. My mom starts bawl­ing.

“She just started cry­ing and break­ing down. ‘Where are we go­ing to live? What are we go­ing to do?’, ” the ac­tor said.

Frus­trated and an­gry, Dwayne started steal­ing and get­ting ar­rested. Then he’d get into fights and be in more trou­ble. With his par­ents fight­ing with each other and him be­ing an only child, he found it dif­fi­cult to talk about his feel­ings. “I had a hard time stay­ing on the right track, stay­ing in school. Had a lot of ar­rests do­ing things I shouldn’t [have been] do­ing,” he re­called.

IN THE end sport was his sal­va­tion. Although he’d been hav­ing wrestling lessons with his dad since age six, he fo­cused on foot­ball, play­ing for is Univer­sity of Miami team, the Miami Hur­ri­canes, and later for the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers in Canada. When in­juries ended his foot­ball ca­reer in the mid-’90s, he turned to wrestling and was soon a WWE su­per­star – and not too long af­ter that a Hol­ly­wood ca­reer came calling. He’d found fame and for­tune yet de­pres­sion con­tin­ued to dog him and he had ther­apy reg­u­larly.

“I’ve had a few bouts of de­pres­sion, as [it] hap­pens to a lot of us,” he said in an in­ter­view with Es­quire mag­a­zine.

“Around 2008, 2009, I was go­ing through a lot of per­sonal sh*t,” he said, re­fer­ring to his di­vorce from Dany Gar­cia, the mother of his daugh­ter Si­mone (16).

“I was just strug­gling, man. Strug­gling to fig­ure out what kind of dad [I was] go­ing to be. Re­al­is­ing I’d done a piss-poor job of cul­ti­vat­ing re­la­tion­ships, and a lot of my friends had fallen by the way­side.

“I was scared. Per­son­ally, every­thing was in a very bad and chal­leng­ing place. And then pro­fes­sion­ally, I couldn’t bet on my­self. I wasn’t used to that. I’d al­ways felt I could put in the work and fix the sce­nario with my own two hands.”

Ther­apy helped him a lot. He and Dany re­main friends, co-par­ents and busi­ness part­ners – she’s the man­ager and co­founder of their pro­duc­tion com­pany, Seven Bucks.

These days Dwayne is en­gaged to his long-time girl­friend, singer-song­writer Lau­ren Hashian, with whom he has a two-year-old, Jas­mine. Lau­ren is preg­nant with their sec­ond child.

A lit­tle while ago Dwayne told talk­show host Oprah Win­frey that one of the most im­por­tant things for de­pres­sion suf­fer­ers to re­alise is they aren’t alone.

“You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not go­ing to be the last. Have faith that on the other side is some­thing good.” S SOURCES: THE EX­PRESS ON SUN­DAY, ROLLING STONE, THR.COM, VA­RI­ETY, ES­QUIRE

Dwayne with fi­ancée Lau­ren Hashian and their daugh­ter, Jas­mine. The cou­ple are ex­pect­ing their sec­ond child later this year.

ABOVE LEFT: Dwayne with his par­ents, Ata and Rocky. ABOVE MID­DLE: With his daugh­ter Si­mone. She and Ata (ABOVE RIGHT) are of­ten at his side at his movie pre­mieres. LEFT: Dwayne shoot­ing a scene for Ballers that re­minded him of his mom’s sui­cide at­tempt.

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