Michael Phelps launches new mental health campaign

Olympic swimming legend wants to raise awareness of mental health issues

3 min By Stephen Hannon
Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps faced many dark moments in his career, despite his unprecedented success as an athlete.

Even now the retired swimmer is going through challenging times.

The American openly admitted that he considered suicide after his six-medal haul at London 2012.

But the 23-time Olympic champion wants to use his own experiences to support others suffering from mental health issues.

 He's announced a new partnership with an online therapy company which helps connect people in need with a counsellor.

Mental health battles

The most-decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals is hoping to make a difference.

He retired for a second time after Rio 2016, but says he still suffers from depression and anxiety.

"I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I'm not in a good mental state," he told the Associated Press.

“I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”

But how did it all begin?

The Baltimore native was just 15 years old when he raced at Sydney 2000.

He announced himself on the Olympic stage four years later at Athens, winning six gold medals.

The turning point

But the then-teenager became embroiled in a drink-driving controversy a few months later.

Phelps would be arrested for the same offence ten years later — which earned him a suspension from the U.S. team.

That second drink-driving incident plunged him into another episode of depression.

But it was a turning point.

"I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there.

"But the more I thought about it, I wanted to find a different route."

— Michael Phelps, talking to AP

Now, he's teamed up with online therapy company Talkspace to help those who need counselling but don't want to — or can't — visit a therapist or counsellor in person.

He says the feeling of helping others outranks his achievements in the pool.

"For me, that’s way bigger than ever winning gold medals. The chance to potentially save a life, to give that person an opportunity to grow and learn and help someone else, there’s nothing better in life."

Another comeback?

The 32-year-old Phelps has kept in good physical condition since retirement.

His competitive streak still burns bright — he's been invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and has even taken part in cycling races under an assumed name.

Michael Phelps baseball
Michael Phelps baseball

That fire extends to the pool. "Would I like to break a world record? Yeah, obviously."

But it seems the prospect of another comeback, in time for Tokyo 2020, remains dim.

Phelps is happy with how it all ended.

"All good things must come to an end eventually," he told AP.

"That was the best way to go out."

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