Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt got candid about their battles with depression Thursday evening at an event to raise awareness for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.
Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, says he was depressed at three different stages after returning home from the Olympics, reports USA Today — and it even got to the point where he “didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
“That’s scary as hell,” Phelps, 31, told audience members at the George Washington University event, hosted by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Thinking about taking your own life, I remember sitting in my room for four or five days not wanting to be alive, not talking to anybody. That was a struggle for me … I reached that point where I finally realized I couldn’t do it alone.”
Phelps struck up a friendship with eight-time Olympic medalist Schmitt, who has had her own battles with depression and has a cousin who committed suicide in her teens.
“Mental illness is something you deal with every day. Just because you go to a psychologist, just because you’re feeling better one day doesn’t mean it’s gone; doesn’t mean you’re healed,” Schmitt told the audience. “It’s something you have and you live with the rest of your life. Learning ways to cope with it, learning ways to live with it is what we do.”
Phelps and Schmitt hope that sharing their stories will give comfort to others dealing with depression.
“I want to be able to get out in front and talk and say ‘Look, yes I’ve done these great things in the pool, but I’m also a human,’ ” said Phelps. “I’m also a human like some of the people in this world who are going through the same exact struggles that I have.
“I want people to understand that there are times that you are going to have to reach out.”