Actor Wentworth Miller, who recently came out in a protest letter regarding Russia’s anti-gay laws, has revealed he attempted suicide as a teenager due to the mental toll hiding his sexuality caused.
Miller, speaking at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Seattle on Saturday, opened up for the first time about the emotional pressure and pain he felt while growing up and realizing he was gay. Miller told during his speech how he had attempted suicide a number of times, the first time when he was 15.
Growing up I was a target. Speaking the right way, standing the right way, holding your wrist the right way. Every day was a test and there were a thousand ways to fail. A thousand ways to betray yourself, to not live up to someone else’s standards of what was acceptable. Of what was normal. And when you failed the test, which was guaranteed, there was a price to pay. Emotionally. Psychologically. Physically.
The first time I tried to kill myself I was fifteen. 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 that come Monday morning I was on the bus back to school, pretending everything was fine.
And when someone asked me “Was that I cry for help?” I say “No” because I told no one. You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for. And I didn’t. I wanted out. I wanted [to be] gone.
Watch the full video below:
Miller went on to say that this fear carried on into later life when, as an actor in the globally successful show Prison Break, he had many opportunities to come out but could not bring himself to do so over fear of losing the career he had worked so hard for:
I chose to lie – when I thought about the possibility of coming out, how that might impact me and the career I worked so hard for, I was filled with fear. Fear and stubborn resistance that had built up over many years.
When I thought about kids out there who might be moved or inspired by me taking a stand or speaking my truth, my mental response was consistently, no thank you.
Watch the video below:
Miller also explained his motivation for passing on an invite to a Russian film festival, writing an open letter in which he for the first time publicly and explicitly acknowledged his sexuality, while saying that he could not attend the festival while Russia continues its onslaught on its minority populations. In essence, he knew his coming out in this way would draw attention to the cause and that this had value for all his “LGBT brothers and sisters” facing human rights abuses in Russia:
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Miller’s story reminds us that LGBT youth are particularly at risk of suicidal ideation, yet it is also true that suicidal tendencies can affect young and old, whatever sexuality or gender expression.
It is estimated that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the USA with the latest figures (2010) showing that there were 38,364 suicides in the United States over the course of one year. The American Association of Suicidology contextualizes that this roughly extrapolates to 105.1 suicides per day, or one suicide every .07 minutes.
Depression and suicidal tendencies are closely linked. As a ready example, depression over the fear of or actual experience of rejection, discrimination or violence relating to sexual orientation or gender expression/identity can create circumstances in which individuals are more likely to contemplate and act on suicidal thoughts. It is estimated that more than 60% of those who attempt suicide will suffer depression.
In the final video above, Miller says that, in taking his stand against Russia’s anti-gay law, he wanted to “be to someone else, what no one was to me.”
By speaking out so publicly and raising the profile of yet another issue like youth suicide, Miller has managed to do just that.
For more information about suicide prevention and for ways you can spot the warning signs of suicidal tendencies or find someone to talk to, please click here, or if you live outside the United States, here.