Swimmer Michael Phelps may be best known for his Olympic gold medal wins, but he’s also become an outspoken advocate for mental health issues, following his own experiences with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, Phelps shared what helped him recover.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Phelps shared that he has partnered with text-based therapy service Talkspace to let people know it’s OK to ask for help if you’re struggling with your mental health. He candidly shared how he decided to get help from a therapist when he questioned his desire to live, urging people not to wait as long as he did to get help. He wrote:
I struggled with anxiety and depression and questioned whether or not I wanted to be alive anymore. It was when I hit this low that I decided to reach out and ask for the help of a licensed therapist. This decision ultimately helped save my life.
I struggled with anxiety and depression and questioned whether or not I wanted to be alive anymore. It was when I hit this low that I decided to reach out and ask for the help of a licensed therapist. This decision ultimately helped save my life. You don’t have to wait for things
— Michael Phelps (@MichaelPhelps) May 26, 2019
Phelps also said it was important for him to speak up about seeking treatment because it can normalize getting help for others, an important issue for mental health advocates. According to 2019 data from Mental Health America, only about 20% of adults in the U.S. get the mental health treatment they need, which hasn’t decreased since 2011.
It’s not the first time the Olympic athlete opened up about his experiences with mental health. During a conference in 2018, Phelps said after his turn at the 2012 Olympics he reached “all-time low,” according to CNN. He then entered treatment for the first time.
“I remember going to treatment my very first day,” Phelps said. “I was shaking, shaking because I was nervous about the change that was coming up.”
While therapy can be scary and hard at first, it can help you work through aspects of your life you may be struggling with as well as teach you new coping skills and build your confidence. Eventually, Phelps learned important tools in therapy, such as naming his emotions, that put him on the path to mental wellness, and ultimately advocacy.
Like Phelps, Mighty contributor Chaz White described how therapy helped him work through suicidal thoughts in his article, “How I Came to Believe Life Is Worth Living.” White wrote:
It was therapy — real, legit, hard, sometimes painful therapy — that gave me hope. Yes, I take meds that do keep me stable and checked off all the aforementioned “solutions” to mental illness, but it was therapy that made me want to live again. Therapy gave me a space of peace within the war silently raging inside my head. Therapy taught me I wasn’t ‘crazy,’ wasn’t bad, wasn’t a failure, wasn’t less than anyone else, and I was just another human.
If you’re struggling, know you’re not alone. If you need help right now, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. To find a therapist in your area, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a helpline to connect you with mental health resources.