Over the weekend, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson celebrated his mother Ata with a touching Mother’s Day post that acknowledged Ata’s mental health struggles, including a past suicide attempt.
“My mom’s been thru it all….cancer survivor, evictions, head on collision by a drunk driver, suicide attempt (still to this day she has zero recollection of me pulling her off the middle of the highway avoiding oncoming traffic) and decades of being married to a ramblin’ pro wrestler,” the Rock posted on Instagram.
The Rock has talked about his mom’s suicide attempt before, including in 2015 when he told Oprah, “In that moment, one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned was how precious life is and how in an instant, it can all go away.”
The openness with which The Rock acknowledged Ata’s mental health struggles was touching, especially as the rate at which women experience mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are on the rise.
According to Columbia University professor Arthi Reddy, MD, rates of mental illness among women have continued to go up during the pandemic. About one-third of women have experienced increased mental health challenges in the past year, compared with just 10% of men. That hasn’t slowed down as the pandemic continues.
“It’s like the dam has broken, and everything is suddenly coming out,” she said. “Women are expected to be the pillars of the household. Moms who were already used to juggling kids, a job, and aging parents were suddenly burdened by a host of other stressful situations and tasks. Physicians are just now dealing with the sequelae of this trauma and stress, including uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, and, not surprisingly, anxiety and depression.”
For most mothers, mental health won’t come to the point of a suicide attempt, the way it did for Ata when The Rock was 15. However, because of the stigma surrounding mental health, many women still delay treatment and don’t reach out for help for their mental health. Seventy percent of women who have mental illness try to hide their symptoms, which often leads to a delay in treatment that can make the mental health condition worse.
“Raising awareness around maternal mental health allows us to change the narrative around the realities of motherhood,” Patience Riley, a counsellor, told Vanity Fair. “Motherhood is not all cuddles and baby kisses, but can be filled with sleepless nights, personal sacrifice, and self-doubt. By normalizing the conversation around mental health, women who experience changes to their mental health during pregnancy and postpartum will know these changes are common and they’re not alone.”
Although we often think of birthing complications like tears, hemorrhage and other physical challenges, the most common complication from childbirth is postpartum depression. Just recognizing that fact can help women feel more secure in seeking treatment for their condition.
“We should be doing everything we can to help our mamas navigate this overwhelming experience. Becoming more aware of maternal mental health struggles can provide others (partners, family, friends) with insight, understanding and empathy,” psychologist Kelly Vincent told Vanity Fair.
It’s always a good idea to reach out to your birth professional or primary care physician if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. The following resources are also available (although nothing can take the place of a one-on-one conversation with your doctor).
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