This is a difficult time for people around the world, as the reality of a new normal is setting in during the coronavirus quarantine and people are figuring out how to move forward. For Michael Phelps, a well-known advocate for mental health, the month of May has long been a time that the Olympian checks in with himself and his peers to ensure that people are focused on bettering themselves amid daily struggles. Now, he admits, that this is harder than ever.
“I can say that this has been the most difficult time for myself to go through,” the world champion and founder of the Michael Phelps Foundation shares during Yahoo’s Reset Your Mindset event. “I’ve gone through some of probably the darkest moments, continuous darkest moments that I’ve gone through. And they’ve gone on week-stretches and it’s scary.”
Phelps has previously been open about the mental health struggles that he faced throughout his career, although he was silently suffering at the time. “If I did say something about it, then it would be a weakness. And I’m not supposed to show weakness,” he explains. “As a male athlete, we’re not supposed to show that. That’s allowing ourselves to become vulnerable. And in a competitive world, that’s not the best thing.”
After speaking out, creating a foundation of his own and teaming up with the federal government’s drowning prevention campaign, Phelps has found purpose in helping others through their own mental health struggles — specifically throughout May, which is both Mental Health Awareness Month and Water Safety Month. This year, he has a renewed focus on giving back to people working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, which he has done by teaming up with TalkSpace to donate 500 months of free online therapy to medical workers, in addition to the 1,000 months that the digital behavioral health resource has already donated.
“It breaks my heart every single time I read a story about an athlete or a celebrity or just somebody fighting COVID who takes their own life,” Phelps says. “I know how difficult it is in this time. I personally have felt that I don’t want to be alive in my life. I’ve felt that feeling before, and it’s scary.”
The 34-year-old father-of-three says that his children serve as a daily reminder that he never wants “to miss a single day.” In order to do so, Phelps stresses the importance of resetting your mindset on a regular basis. “What’s one thing that I can grab on and I can be really good at that thing. I can work on that one thing today, and that’s all I’ll do,” he says. “When you reset your focus, you’re just almost taking a step back, taking a deep breath and then starting a new journey again.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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