Michael Phelps has never turned away from advocating for mental health issues, including his own. He has publicly discussed the mental health problems he struggled with during his time as an Olympian, even endorsing full campaigns around the topic.
The highest-decorated Olympian is now using his platform to continue fighting for a cause close to his heart. He is the narrator and executive producer of the new documentary, “The Weight of Gold.”
The documentary premiered on Wednesday at 9 P.M. on HBO. The film features many well-known athletes, including Shaun White, Lolo Jones, Bode Miller, Apolog Anton Ohno, Sasha Cohen, and Gracie Gold.
The one-hour long documentary focuses on Phelps’s goal of enacting change within the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. With the help of fellow Olympians, Phelps was able to speak up and challenge the USOPC to invest both money and time, and encourage mental health counseling.
Olympians and many other professional athletes are often not guided to mental health resources to cope with mental health issues. Many athletes are often told to “escape” within their sport rather than seek professional help.
Phelps specifically points out how the most shocking aspect to him was not that athletes struggle with mental health issues, but that not many seemed to care about this continuously growing problem.
“We’re just products”
On Monday, Phelps was interviewed in a conference discussing the upcoming documentary. Phelps emphasized how he and the other athletes featured in the film had a similar mentality on how others in the professional sports world handled mental health.
He claimed they all agreed that “Nobody helps us” and “[They’re] just products.” It is unfortunate that so many incredible and well-known athletes have faced such similar circumstances.
Phelps pointed out how, before filming the documentary, he believed every individual would be different in regards to their stories and experiences with others. Phelps claims that there are 15 to 20 athletes in the film that can relate to the unfortunate circumstances involving mental health.
Mental Health Issues Can Affect Anyone
Included in the documentary is an interview with Olympic bobsledder Steven Holcomb from 2017. This was shot by filmmakers months before his death.
An autopsy reported prescription sleeping pills and alcohol in his system. One of Holcomb’s best friends describes finding him lifeless in his room.
Phelps highlighted how, although everyone around him cared so deeply about his physical health, his mental health was never questioned or prioritized by professionals.
In the film, Michael Phelps claims an astonishing 80% of athletes face post-Olympic depression, of some sort.
Phelps and many other professional athletes hope that their honesty and advocacy for the issue prompts change within the USOPC.