On February 1, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson posted an Instagram photo from the set of his HBO show Ballers, during a scene where his character pays tribute to his brother who committed suicide. The emotional scene prompted the star to recall how depression and suicide have touched his own life — most notably, through his mother’s suicide attempt when he was just 15 years old.
“Not your typical scene on our comedy #ballers, as I cracked a beer open toasting my character’s brother, William who committed suicide,” Johnson captioned the post. “Got me thinkin’ though bout how many of us have been affected by suicide of our friends, family. Struggle and pain is real. We’ve all been there on some level or another.”
As Johnson once told The Hollywood Reporter, times were very challenging for his family growing up, which wound up pushing his mother’s emotional state to its limits.
“We were living in an efficiency that cost $120 a week,” he explained at the time. “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?'”
His February 1 post also described the harrowing details of his mother’s later suicide attempt, which happened on a freeway near his family’s hometown at the time:
“My mom tried to check out when I was 15,” Johnson wrote. “She got outta the car on Interstate 65 in Nashville and walked into oncoming traffic. Big rigs and cars swerving outta the way not to hit her. I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoulder of the road. What’s crazy about that suicide attempt is to this day, she has no recollection of it whatsoever. Probably best she doesn’t.”
Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter that his mom’s attempted suicide was what ultimately made him push himself physically, and eventually rising to stardom in the WWE as “The Rock.”
“That was the tipping point,” he said. “It was about, ‘What can I control with these two hands?’ The only thing I could do was train and build my body. The successful men I knew were men who built their bodies.”
Johnson’s emotional story has opened the floodgates on Instagram in the last few days, with thousands of users sharing their own painful stories.
“Happened to me too,” wrote one commenter. “I didn’t try to walk on the interstate in traffic but I lost my husband to cancer and remember not wanting to live anymore. I have no memory of it either.”
In his caption, Johnson added that while the cemetery scene was hard to shoot, it was an important reminder for all of us about helping others in need.
“We always gotta do our best to really pay attention when people are in pain,” he wrote. “Help ‘em thru it, get ‘em talkin’ about the struggle and remind ‘em that they’re not alone.”