What Prison Break's Wentworth Miller Taught Me About My Mental Health
This past month, I’ve been watching “Prison Break” for the first time which, if you’ve ever seen it, you know by “watching” I actually mean barely leaving my room to participate in society. I’ve been totally consumed by the storyline and the characters and have had ongoing battles of turning my “I need to help the guys from Fox River stay out of trouble” brain off and turning my “I need to focus at work so I can make rent” brain on. One such character who has left me daydreaming, who has undoubtedly left most of the world in a similar state of mind since the show was first released 12 years ago, is Michael Scofield.
Portrayed by British-American actor Wentworth Miller, Michael Scofield is the heart of “Prison Break.” It is his mastermind scheme that sees him purposefully arrested and sent to Fox River State Penitentiary to break out his brother Lincoln, who was wrongly accused of murder and set to receive the death penalty. Over the five-season story, we learn about the conspiracy behind Lincoln’s arrest, we watch the exquisite detail of Michael’s plan unfold and we bite our nails as we watch the aftermath of both.
Whenever I get heavily involved in a television show, I like to look up the associated actors and actresses so I can get a better idea of where they came from. So you can imagine it took me all of about 20 seconds to want to know everything about Wentworth Miller. But what started as a joyful, heart-eyed exploration of my new TV crush, quickly turned into an eyebrow furrowing discovery of heart-wrenching facts and fictions.
I found a post on his Facebook page from 2016, addressing a meme that had been created in light of a paparazzi photo which captured him hiking. I read through articles discussing his battle with depression, attempts at suicide and the long road he took to come to terms with his sexuality.
Comments flooded every post, many of them positive, praising Miller for his honesty and his activism. I sat teary-eyed, reading through the words of strangers, wondering how much they would have helped Miller or any of the millions of others who have struggled with self-acceptance during a time when they believed suicide was a viable option.
I thought of myself who, at the age of 14 — while not struggling with thoughts of suicide — had made a list of things I needed to change about myself in order to be attractive, well-liked and ultimately happy. Little did I know, self-love is not intrinsic to a set of terms and conditions. You don’t have to look a certain way; you don’t have to hold a certain opinion; you don’t have to hide the things that make you different.
As I read up on Wentworth Miller and learned about everything he’s been through — all the successes and failures, triumphs and struggles — I began to appreciate and relate to him on an entirely new level. It is what he’s gone through that made him the perfect person to portray Michael Scofield. It is who he is at his core that gave him the ability to make the character resonate with audiences for years to come. Without the true Wentworth Miller, Michael Scofield doesn’t exist. We as human beings are all characters that make up this thing called life. When we aren’t true to those characters — when we try to change them or prevent them from being exactly who they are meant to be — we rid the world of what they have to offer and the world is worse because of it.
In the simplest sense, a world without uniqueness and originality is a world without any of us. It is a world without color or beauty or wonder. It is a world without love or inspiration or compassion. It is a without Wentworth Miller or Michael Scofield, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, I never want to live in that world.
Follow this journey on the author’s blog.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
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Image via Prison Break Facebook Page.