Michael Phelps struggled with depression after the Olympics, and here's why his story is so important
We’re glad to see celebrities and athletes talk about their mental health struggles. The more people who talk about it, the sooner we can end the stigma. That’s why we’re proud of Michael Phelps for sharing his own struggles with depression at a recent mental health conference in Chicago.
“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” the Olympic record-holder said in an interview with CNN’s David Axelrod. He said he noticed a pattern of emotion “that just wasn’t right” at “a certain time during every year,” around the beginning of October or November, he said. “I would say ’04 was probably the first depression spell I went through.”
During the 20-minute interview at the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, Phelps recalled being photographed smoking from a bong just weeks after winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He said he used drugs to escape “whatever it was I wanted to run from.”
“It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from,” Phelps added.
Phelps also confessed to being suicidal at the height of his depression. He told the audience he hit a low after the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. “I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore…I didn’t want to be alive anymore,” he said.
Michael Phelps also opened up about seeking help, which can be especially hard for those struggling with mental illness.
Through therapy and treatment, Phelps said he now has a better understanding of his mental health and his emotions.
We’re so glad to see him speaking out against the stigma of mental health.
In fact, the Michael Phelps Foundation, which helps young swimmers practice water safety and wellness, now offers stress management programs.
Normalizing the conversation around mental illness can only happen when people speak honestly about their experiences. Thank you for your candor, Michael!