Wentworth Miller Gets Real With Body Shamers About Depression

The ‘Prison Break’ actor addressed a meme critical of his physique by opening up about his mental health struggles.

Wentworth Miller attends a special screening of ‘The Loft’ at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo: Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images)

Mar 29, 2016· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

From cruel comments about Serena Williams’ physique to trolls who criticize the shape and size of everyday people, body shaming is all too easy to find on the Internet. But after a U.K.-based entertainment website posted a snarky meme online with before and after pictures of actor Wentworth Miller, the Prison Break star wrote a lengthy essay about his struggles with depression, turning the incident into a poignant lesson on the dangers of mocking people.

“The first time I saw this meme pop up in my social media feed, I have to admit, it hurt to breathe,” wrote Miller on his Facebook page on Monday. “But as with everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness.”

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Since Monday afternoon, Miller’s post has been liked about 564,000 times and shared nearly 183,000 times, and commenters are applauding the actor’s willingness to open up about the critical meme, which was posted on the Facebook page for the website The Lad Bible. It featured side-by-side pictures of Miller with the caption “When you break out of prison and find out about McDonald’s monopoly...” The shot on the left side was a studio photo of the actor from his Prison Break days looking seriously ripped, while on the right, he was out and about in Los Angeles looking like a normal guy.

“In 2010, semi-retired from acting, I was keeping a low profile for a number of reasons,” wrote Miller on Facebook. “First and foremost, I was suicidal. Ashamed and in pain, I considered myself damaged goods. And the voices in my head urged me down the path to self-destruction.”

Miller wrote that he has “struggled with depression since childhood. It’s a battle that’s cost me time, opportunities, relationships, and a thousand sleepless nights.” He hit a low point in 2010, when he began eating more as a comfort. “And I put on weight. Big f--king deal,” he wrote.

While he was out doing something positive for his health—hiking with a friend in L.A.—a paparazzi photographer snapped Miller’s picture, which ended up in tabloid magazines with captions such as “Hunk to Chunk” and “Fit to Flab,” he explained.

“In 2010, fighting for my mental health, it was the last thing I needed,” Miller wrote. But, the actor said, although the paparazzi pictures pop up online from time to time, such as in this latest meme, he survived.

“Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without.”

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Miller has spoken in recent years about his mental health challenges and suicide attempts—the first when he was 15—before coming out as gay in 2013. LGBT youths are four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, according to the advocacy group The Trevor Project.

Whatever circumstances are causing depressed thoughts, Miller encourages folks who are struggling to get help. “Reach out. Text. Send an email. Pick up the phone. Someone cares. They’re waiting to hear from you,” he wrote.

As for The Lad Bible, it has removed the offending meme and offered Miller an apology.

“Causing distress and upset to innocent or vulnerable people is simply not acceptable,” the website wrote on its Facebook page on Tuesday. “We applaud your raw honesty and promise to now cover such matters in the responsible manner that our audience expects. Responding head-on to our post is something we applaud as it will help others through similar challenges in their lives. Once again, we got this very wrong, and we wanted to say sorry.”