Well-Being//

Why Elite Athletes Are Turning to Michael Phelps for Help with Mental Health

The Olympic gold medalist opens up about depression and helping others cope.

Image courtesy of Flickr. 

Beyond already being humanity’s most decorated swimmer, 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps is adding yet another title to his shelf—mental health advocate. In a recent interview with The New York Times, the 32-year-old Baltimore native opened up about his struggles with depression and why he is determined to help other athletes.

Though now a happily married man and father to one-year-old son Boomer, the path to well-being has been a long one for Phelps. In addition to his infamous bong photo, Phelps’ reputation was also tarnished by a pair of “driving-under-the-influence” charges. He reflected on his second arrest to Times reported Karen Crouse, saying that he spent the days after the arrest laying in bed “literally wanting to die.”

Having managed to turn his personal life around, Phelps has become a source of support for other athletes struggling with their hearts and minds. Fellow Olympian and famed Australian swimmer Grant Hackett and golfer Tiger Woods are among those who have sought out Phelps for guidance. Whether it’s simply lending an ear or housing those in need—Hackett told the Times he spends so much time at Phelps’ home that he is probably getting mail there—seemingly no ask is too great for Phelps. Plenty of research has shown that having the support of a friend or loved one is essential to our emotional and physical well-being, so Phelps serves as a heartening example that things are moving in the right direction.

Counseling others through their issues is no easy task, but it’s a challenge that Phelps is ready to face head on. “I want to be able to get out in public and talk and say, ‘Yes, I’ve done these great things in the pool,” Phelps said, “but I’m also a human.’” 

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