Fame, Glory and Mental Health

If you ever need motivation, look no further than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Instagram page. According to Business Insider, he is the second-highest-paid actor earning $124 million between June 2017 to June 2018, and even though he’s seemingly one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, he always has time to post a photo or two from his 4 a.m. workouts

Despite the fame and wealth, Johnson recently spoke about his battle with depression. He told the Hollywood Reporter that growing up poor, watching his mother attempt suicide, and dropping out of college devastated his psyche. Many people would never guess such a bubbly character could be suffering such intense mental health issues. Unfortunately, in the realm of mental health, this is a common misconception. In April, he tweeted, “We all go thru the sludge/s*** and depression never discriminates” Since there are few external signs, it is not easy to see who is suffering. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 1 in 6 Adults in the U.S. suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder.

One of the most decorated Olympians of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps, has had a similar battle with depression. For Phelps, it would present itself after competition season. When asked at the Kennedy Forum conference for mental health to pinpoint when his depression started, he said his first depression spell was in 2004: “ Really, after every Olympics, I think I fell into a major state of depression.” Phelps goes on to talk about how he never really an identity outside of being a swimmer. Since the age of 11, his sole focus was being an Olympian and only after that did he the depression start. But, there is not always a specific cause of depression. Michael had an insightful quote on CBS Morning “It’s okay to not be okay” He said he still suffers from bouts of depression; for some, it is more about managing than curing. Timothy J, Pegg, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist specializing in mental health, says that the symptoms can be alleviated and that remission is the goal.

Depression has also found athletes in the ring; after winning the belt in 2015, heavyweight champion Tyson Fury retired from boxing and embarked on a two-year party binge, with excessive drinking and drug use, which culminated in an attempted suicide. Phelps said that drugs were a way of running from “whatever it was I wanted to run from, it would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from.” Phelps had a DUI in 2014 and Fury partied so hard he ballooned to almost 400 pounds. They are two athletes at the top of their respective fields, yet they are also susceptible to negative emotions. Some people assume external rewards will help validate their situation, but that is not always the case.

So, what helped them? For Johnson, it was reaching out and sharing his story. He spoke in an interview with Express on the importance of reaching out: “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.” Phelps said, “I was very good at compartmentalizing things and stuffing things away that I didn’t want to talk about, I didn’t want to deal with, I didn’t want to bring up — I just never ever wanted to see those things,” But, this only makes the problem worse. For many people, they need someone to talk to and get out of their isolation.
For Fury, he preaches goal-setting. He said he wasn’t depressed before winning the title, because there was purpose: “I’ve suffered from mental health problems my whole life, but I never knew what it was ‘cause I never had no education on the matter; it wasn’t till after the Klitschko fight, a very massive high, that I had I had an even worse low.” Currently, Fury is preparing for his Dec. 1 comeback fight against one of the most dangerous punchers, heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, and said in an interview with BT sports that he has never felt better

A Psychology Today article explains that cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for depression. This method addresses problematic thought patterns and can be used with or without prescription drugs. This is what Fury is doing: reinforcing positive thought patterns through goal setting, Awards and glory don’t give decades of happiness. Even Michael Phelps finds more pleasure in helping people with mental help than winning gold medals, saying, “those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than winning the Olympic gold medal.”
For many people, they need someone to talk to; luckily, on our campus, we have access to psychiatry services free of charge through Counseling and Career Services. We also have professors, who are here in part because they relish the intimate interactions they have with students. There is the perception that everyone at Oxford is friends with everybody, so if you are not social on our campus it can feel even smaller. But, it is really not hard to find a classmate willing to listen.

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