Yes, yes, it’s extremely low-hanging fruit to make a joke or two about the disappointing Game of Thrones finale here. Reactions were notoriously less than positive and witnessing the aftermath live on Twitter that Sunday night was…wild, to say the least. But as much as fans thought it was the end of the world, it was equally as difficult (if not much more so) on the cast themselves. Take it from Jon Snow himself.
Actor Kit Harington is opening up about his mental health issues during the period of time leading up to the final season as well as the subsequent year. As it happens, the biggest culprit was not so much the finale or the final season in and of itself, but the taxing subject matter of the dark fantasy series overall. In an appearance on The Jess Cagle Show (via THR), Harington goes into detail about the toll it took on him:
“I went through some mental health difficulties after Thrones, and during the end of Thrones, to be honest. I think it was directly due to the nature of the show and what I had been doing for years.”
Despite its widespread popularity, Game of Thrones wasn’t the easiest watch. Based on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels, the stories in both mediums faced loads of criticism for their unrelenting bleakness. It’s not always easy for performers to fully separate themselves from such long-running and beloved roles that deal with so much darkness, as Harington seems to be implying. The actor took the impressive step of checking himself into a health and wellness facility back in April/May of 2019 — very close to when Game of Thrones aired its concluding episode — and it seems to have helped him immensely.
In order to get the help he needed, Harington took a year off from work following the conclusion of the HBO series to “really concentrate on myself” and looked back at the decision with no regrets, saying “I’m really happy I did that.”
Mental Health and Awareness
This news arrives as much of the world is grappling with similar accounts of public figures struggling with their mental health. Rising tennis star Naomi Osaka pulled herself out of the prestigious French Open due to similar issues, stemming from the rigorous demands placed on her in the unusual press conference format before matches. Facing an onslaught of disingenuous criticism, the 23-year-old Osaka penned an eloquent essay fully explaining her reasoning, but mostly bringing awareness to the overall depth and nuance of the topic. Most recently, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles also faced backlash for withdrawing from four previous events, before the 24-year-old jumped back in to win a bronze medal earlier today.
If this must be considered a mental health “reckoning” for a generation that’s clearly more determined to speak out about these issues than previous ones, then so be it. All walks of life come rife with particular difficulties and struggles and, rather than disregard it all or whisper about it in hushed tones, hopefully these instances of public figures shining a light on their own issues encourages others to do the same. There will probably always be a vocal establishment of critics who refuse to engage with these issues with the sobriety they deserve, but that doesn’t take away from the undeniable good that these examples result in. Here’s hoping that Harington, Osaka, Biles, and all the rest of us in this struggle together continue to speak out and thrive.
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