Olympic champion Michael Phelps spoke candidly about his battle with depression on Thursday night. At an event in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Phelps gave a speech about his own difficult experience with mental illness, emphasizing the importance of getting help as well as giving help to those in need, USA Today reports.
According to Phelps, at its worst, his depression left him feeling like he hit bottom. “For me, getting to an all-time low where I didn’t want to be alive anymore, that’s scary as hell,” Phelps told the crowd. “Thinking about taking your own life, I remember sitting in my room for four or five days not wanting to be alive, not talking to anybody. That was a struggle for me.”
From his experience, he learned the importance of leaning on others. “The struggles that I have had weren’t easy, and they weren’t fun, but they were a part of my journey,” he said. “For the longest time, I was really good at compartmentalizing things and just pushing them deeper and deeper so I never had to deal with them. That brought me to a point in my life where I found myself at an all-time low. It was then that I finally decided that I needed help and that I could not do this alone.”
Depression affects 6.1 percent of U.S. adults each year, according to Mental Health America. And while the disorder is treatable, unfortunately only a third of those suffering from severe depression reach out to a mental health professional for help.
Phelps said he hopes his experience can inspire others in similar situations to get help. “I want people to understand that there are times that you are going to have to reach out,” he said. “I truly encourage everybody to ask for help or to reach out to somebody you trust just to talk and to be there for others in a time of need.”
You can watch Michael Phelps’ speech about his mental health below.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or any mental illness, resources are available at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And if you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
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