Schwarzenegger message helps inspire struggling fans

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Media captionArnold Schwarzenegger starts a conversation about mental health

A social media exchange between Arnold Schwarzenegger and a man suffering with depression has moved many online to share their stories.

Ali, who goes by the screen name "u/0770059834333178", sent Mr Schwarzenegger a message asking for some motivational words from the famous former body-builder.

He explained that he has "been depressed for months", and had stopped exercising.

Image copyright Reddit / u/0770059834333178

Ali, who lives in Quebec, Canada, told the BBC: "I was just lying in bed and feeling down, when I decided to send the message. I had been feeling bad for about three months."

To Ali's surprise the Terminator actor replied. Not with an order to "snap out of it", but gentle encouragement to take "one step at a time".

Image copyright Reddit/ GovSchwarzenegger

Ali, who describes himself as a big Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, said: "I jumped out of bed and thought what's the quickest way to the gym? I used that motivation and went straight there. It was crazy."

The supportive exchange has proven very popular on Reddit, with screen grabs of the conversation receiving more than 70,000 upvotes - a sign of popularity.

The interaction moved others to share their own struggles with mental health and exercise.

Image copyright Reddit

Taking on the role of advice-giver, Ali has been replying to many comments to offer words of encouragement.

Ali says these interactions are the "best part about all of this".

One Reddit user wrote: "I've been in a personal crisis myself, haven't been to the gym in two years. This legit makes me want to cry."

Ali responded, saying: "Let your bad feelings out and cry if you need to, holding back emotions is the easiest way to go further into depression. Don't give up!"

Another user replied to Mr Schwarzenegger's message to say that she had "extreme anxiety" after the birth of her son, and was struggling to leave the house.

Image copyright Reddit / u/avergrany7710

Ali responded to encourage the poster to take small steps and set objectives.

While the majority of reaction to the exchange has been positive, some have suggested the message is not an appropriate way to handle serious depression.

Ali responded to criticism to explain that receiving a message from Mr Schwarzenegger was personally "a huge, huge boost" which got him "amped up to hit the gym".

"Obviously depression can't just be 'cured' that easily. In my case I needed a push to do the one thing which I know helps me when I'm feeling down."

Spotting the positive interactions Ali was having with others who were struggling, Mr Schwarzenegger posted a video message, filmed (of course) in a gym.

Mr Schwarzenegger said he was proud that Ali was "pumping up other people that have depression and encouraging them and giving them positive reinforcement. I love that," he said.

He signed off: "Hasta la vista".

If you're struggling with your mental health or any of the difficulties mentioned in this article you can find help and advice here.