On the afternoon of May 6, 31-year-old Australian bodybuilder and actor Calum von Moger, best known for playing Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Bigger, jumped through a second-story window in a failed suicide attempt. The resulting injury to his spine required surgery and several days in a medically induced coma to stabilize the repair.
Although he is currently being discharged from the hospital and recovering, this was just the latest in a series of personal tragedies to afflict one of bodybuilding's brightest stars.
Calum von Moger / Instagram / @calumvonmoger
I admit I don't know Calum von Moger personally. Like most of you, I only know his public persona, mostly through social media and his acting roles. So I'm not going to muddle through his personal affairs to try and invent a chain of events that would explain why a man who on the outside seems to have it all could be in such headspace that he chose to throwing himself out of a second floor window.
The question that needs to be asked is: What could cause such severe emotional pain that the only relief is death? Determining that is the job of a mental health doctor, and I'm not one of them. What I'm saying is that unless you've been living under a rock for the past quarter century, mental illness has become a topical topic of conversation for a variety of social issues and public tragedies. It seems that as society advances, so does the need to address mental illness. I think that's a very relevant topic in bodybuilding (by bodybuilding I mean everything: open, classic, 212, male, female, figure, physique, wellness and everything to do with weights, food, drugs and such suit ) because we might be predisposed to it for various reasons.
That's probably where I'm accused of being judgmental. How do I know Calum is mentally ill and his intent was suicide? Some might even go so far as to suggest that jumping out of a second-story window is more of a cry for help; For actual death to occur in such a scenario, you would need a few more floors. While there may be some truth to this, it is splitting hairs. body jumps out of a window because their goldfish died. Something is wrong, and Calum is just a manifestation of it.
Bodybuilding is all consuming and a brilliantly dramatic spectacle in its act. The industry that surrounds them and the players within it are no strangers to the drama we produce. However, behind the scenes, dealing with the drama can be difficult. Most of us are learning to keep up with it. But every once in a while, we get thrown a curve ball that makes Jacob deGrom blush. I think Calum von Moger's plight is one of them.
Outwardly, we all see Calum von Moger as one of the superstars of our industry. Tall, handsome, and built, with all his accolades: three-time Mr. Universe, acting roles, modeling deals, magazine covers, endorsement deals, and a solid social media following. He even played Arnold freak'n Schwarzenegger!
So what on earth is wrong here? I'm not going to play the mental health expert. However, I doubt any of us would argue that people of sound mind and good judgment don't throw themselves out of windows. These types of incidents occur when someone is depressed, anxious, bipolar, addicted to drugs, conflicted... you get the picture. However you choose to slice it, it's caused by a form of mental illness. The question is, do bodybuilders typically exhibit behavior that some of us might label as mentally ill?
A narcissistic collapse?
To say that bodybuilders are self-centered or even narcissistic is an understatement. It's common to encounter bodybuilders who are self-centered, arrogant, ruthless, aloof, attention-grabbing, cocky, manipulative, and demanding. These traits fit the description of what clinicians refer to as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). That's not a diagnosis, but I've been around long enough to say that if Ovid were writing the story of Echo and Narcissus today, he would make the reflecting pool a mirror and the protagonists bodybuilders (Nemesis would be social media).
wadays, bodybuilders can easily be labeled as such, especially with the help of social media. In fact, someone recently told me that if you want to find a good narcissist, you should look for a bodybuilder. I wouldn't put that label on all my brothers, but you know as well as I do that some of them deserve it. Especially when it comes to such typical bodybuilder traits as needing attention and admiration, hating losing, troubled relationships, lack of empathy, pathological self-centeredness, vanity, egotism, self-admiration, etc.
Suffice it to say, this is a complex area, and I certainly don't (nor do I qualify) label Calum as a narcissist. However, I would like to say that a psychologist told me about a "narcissistic breakdown". This is when someone with NPD can no longer maintain their image and as a result feels angry, leading to intense hitting, impulsive behavior, or hurting themselves and/or others. This could be relevant for us.
For bodybuilders, when you factor in the NPD descriptive traits, along with what might have led them to put all that armor on their bodies in the first place, then you add something like a contest prep, a film role, a modeling job that required is an all-consuming regiment of exercise, dieting, meal prep, tanning, cardio, and the associated stress it all causes, on top of having to make a living, and it's not uncommon that this can result in becoming someone withdraws and becomes isolated. Which leads to loneliness. Which can lead to depression. Then add a lot of personal tragedy to the mix and it wouldn't be surprising to see the door wide open for drugs. It creates an all-too-familiar vortex.
This is especially relevant to bodybuilding as many of us hold on to a drug use mentality. Like it or not, drugs are rampant in bodybuilding, especially at the elite level. I am referring to both performance enhancing and recreational drugs. Pretty much if you do drugs, you do drugs. It's difficult to rationalize performance versus recovery, especially given the inevitable overlap.
w add in the typical mood-altering hormonal responses of certain performance-enhancing drugs (especially steroids), as well as stopping those drugs. This only raises the temperature and adds to the suffering. (For those unfamiliar with hormonal effects on mood, on and off steroids resulted in huge testosterone swings that can lead to severe mood swings).
Finally, when through all this suffering, sacrifice, dedication, focus, energy, time and money, the outcome of the competition, contract, photo shoots, social media hounding, whatever, disappointment or failure, it's pretty easy to find yourself the edge, endure some level of emotional pain.
Then they look back and see the wreckage that this persecution has created. Ended relationships, lost jobs, injuries surface, savings are spent, family ties strain—everyone has their problems. The strength of your mind and your mental fitness will determine what you do about it.
Thankfully, most of us have the emotional capacity to pull ourselves up and move on. Unfortunately, some of us cannot. The pain is too great, the loss is too great, the drugs are too strong, the suffering has done too much damage, the fear is too great, the pain is too unbearable. Suddenly the ending looks better than moving on.
In no way am I suggesting that this was the sequence that caused Calum to do what he did. However, thanks to social media, we know enough about him and what he does to take a look at his situation and at least consider the importance of mental health. The path Calum von Moger chose ultimately turned out to be terrible. By the grace of the higher power you attribute, he has been given another chance. I sincerely hope that Calum's suffering will not be in vain; not just for him, but for all of us.
The bottom line is that in our world in particular, we need to take care of the people around us. Pay attention to what they do - or don't do. When someone you know is going through an incredible bout of personal tragedy, like Calum von Moger, and becomes depressed, withdrawn from social life, shows signs of self-loathing, becomes overly obsessed with their social media, or is threatened in any way, they are devalued , self-deprecating, radically impulsive and uses a lot of drugs, then maybe you should gather friends and talk about what's going on. Suggest counseling, offer to give them a lift, make sure they don't spend too much time alone... there are plenty of resources and international hotlines at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
You have to get involved. It's not enough to just love them.
As big and invincible as some of us may seem on the outside, we all bleed, we are all human. I don't think it's too far-fetched to think that Calum was struck by some form of mental illness/trauma from Moger and nearly killed him - this time. I hope those around him can huddle and find a way to protect him and get him help. At the end of the day we have to take care of each other. body else will. It may be uncomfortable, but try to remember how Joe Weider used to say, "We're all brothers."