With the hope of making a difference in the lives of people dealing with mental health problems, 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps recently announced his partnership with Talkspace, an online and mobile therapy company that helps connect therapists to those in need. “I feel like with all the issues we have in this world, this is something where I can truly make significant impact,” said the 32-year-old retired competitive swimmer.
Phelps considered his association with Talkspace a “higher calling” than anything he ever did as a swimmer. Hopeful of removing the stigma surrounding mental health, he said for him saving the life of someone battling a mental illness was “way bigger than ever winning gold medals.” Emphasizing the need for improving mental health in America, he said mental health was important, especially now, when rising suicide rates and incidents of school shootings were a growing problem in the United States.
Lingering struggle with depression and anxiety
During an exclusive interview with AP News, Phelps talked about the dark times of his life while dealing with depression and suicidal ideation after he was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) for the second time. His first DUI-related arrest was made when he was 19 and had won six gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics a few months ago. In the 2008 Beijing Games, the athlete won eight gold medals but was suspended as a picture of him smoking from a marijuana pipe became public. This was a shock for the player and it devastated him. Demotivated, he decided against participating in the 2012 Olympics.
The lowest point in his life came in 2014 when he decided to compete in the fifth Olympics but was arrested for DUI again. This incident shook him completely and in turn, inspired him to join a rehab facility. “I thought it would make things easier. I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there. But the more I thought about it, I wanted to find a different route. I wanted to see if I could find some help. I wanted to see if I could get better,” he said.
Phelps has been able to keep himself motivated since the Rio Games in 2016, but accepts that his fight against mental illness would persist throughout his life. Accepting that he still goes through challenging times, he said, “I still go through times that are very challenging. I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I’m not in a good mental state. I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”
Seeking help is the key
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in six (44.7 million) Americans, aged 18 years or older, live with a mental illness, including both any mental illness (AMI) and serious mental illness (SMI). In spite of such staggering numbers, only a few seek treatment. However, it is important to understand that a mental illness should be treated at the earliest.
If you know someone battling some form ofmental illness and looking for help, refer them to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Having access to multiple 24/7 mental health services, our representatives at our mental health live chat can help them look for a suitable treatment facility near them. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 653-8178 or connect online with our mental health chat representatives for immediate assistance.