The swimming great Michael Phelps on Tuesday opened up about his battle with clinical depression and said that he considered committing suicide at one point. Speaking at a mental health conference in Chicago, the 23-time Olympic gold medal winning athlete said that he used to fell into depression after every Olympic event.
“After every Olympics, I think I fell into a major state of depression,” the 32-year old was quoted as saying by news agency AFP. He further added that he locked himself up for four days after his success at 2012 London Olympics where he won four gold medals and two silver medals. “I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore. I didn’t want to be alive.” He further added that he contemplated suicide during his depression spell: “You do contemplate suicide.”
Phelps, who won 28 Olympic medals throughout his career, said that he tried to self-medicate himself with drugs and alcohol. “It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from,” he said.
One of the most celebrated Olympians of all time, Phelps said that mental illness should not be considered as “weakness”. “We’re supposed to be this big, macho, physically strong human beings, but this is not a weakness. We are seeking and reaching for help,” he said. He further added that the stigma around mental illness needs to be removed. “(Mental illness) has a stigma around it and that’s something we still deal with every day. I think people actually finally understand it is real. People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change,” he said.
Phelps announced his retirement from the sport after the 2016 Rio Olympics in which he won 5 gold medals and one silver medal.