Actor Wentworth Miller Takes On New Mental Health Advocacy Role

By Dorri Olds 10/21/16

The actor has been very open about his battle with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Actor Wentworth Milller Takes On New Mental Health Advocacy Role

Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller is on a mission to help anyone with mental illness feel better about themselves. The actor/screenwriter, who has been very vocal about mental health awareness and suicide prevention, recently accepted the position of Ambassador for Mental Health for the non-profit organization Active Minds.

The 501(c)(3)’s purpose is to help empower students by encouraging them to speak openly about mental health. It is similar to actress Glenn Close’s nonprofit, Bring Change 2 Mind, but Active Minds focuses specifically on high schools and colleges.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Each year 1,100 students take their own lives. The main reason for not seeking help is fear of stigma. Those who are ages 18 to 24 are least likely to reach out for help

Miller is committed to fighting stigma and helping anyone who is suffering. He wants them to know they are not alone.

In September, National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we told you about the star’s public service announcement that depicts the hell of living with anxiety and depression. In the PSA he directs viewers to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK).

The mental health advocate first spoke openly about his lifelong depression in August 2013, according to the Human Rights Campaign. He had been invited to Russia’s St. Petersburg International Film Festival, but in June 2013, Russia had passed a law that criminalized “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” He declined to participate at the festival via letter, announcing that he was gay. 

And he spoke of multiple suicide attempts:

“The first time I tried to kill myself, I was 15. I waited until my family went away for the weekend and I was alone in the house and I swallowed a bottle of pills. I don’t remember what happened over the next couple of days but I'm pretty sure come Monday morning I was on the bus back to school pretending everything was fine.”

More and more celebrities are talking about mental health issues and raising awareness. Those stars include Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato, and Kristen Bell.

In March, Miller wrote a post on Facebook after a meme had made fun of his weight gain:

“In 2010, at the lowest point in my adult life, I was looking everywhere for relief/comfort/distraction. And I turned to food. It could have been anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex.

“The extent of my struggle known to very, very few. Ashamed and in pain, I considered myself damaged goods. And the voices in my head urged me down the path to self-destruction. Not for the first time. I've struggled with depression since childhood. It's a battle that's cost me time, opportunities, relationships, and a thousand sleepless nights.”

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.