Olympic Gold Medalists Team Up to Raise Awareness About Children's Mental Health | NBC Bay Area

Olympic Gold Medalists Team Up to Raise Awareness About Children's Mental Health

Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt were honorary chairpersons of SAMHSA’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event.

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    Olympic gold medalists Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Thursday to raise awareness about children’s mental health.

    The two chaired a discussion Thursday night focused on the mental health care that kids need -- and how families can access mental health resources -- for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day 2017.

    This year’s theme was “Partnering for Help and Hope.”

    Both said that reaching out for help was key to their recovery. "Sometimes we need to see it's possible, that it can and does work, to see how we can accomplish it ourselves," Schmitt said.

    “I'm so glad we both found the courage to ask for help," Phelps said.

    He described the support that he received from his coach, Bob Bowman.

    "He taught me so many things ... he was always pushing for me to go out and get help," Phelps said. "He was on board and he learned from the process as well ... it was something we both grew from. 

    "I can never, ever thank him enough."

    Schmitt said she struggled to share her story, but realized it could do some good. "When I chose to speak out on my own struggle, my only goal was to save one life," she said. "No person should have to endure these struggles alone."

    Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, and Schmitt, an eight-time Olympic medalist, have been up-front about their own struggles with mental health and substance abuse. 

    Phelps had been arrested for driving under the influence in 2004 and 2014; a photo of him using pot at a party in 2009 cost him sponsorships and led to a brief ban from swimming.

    In an interview with NBC Sports’ host Bob Costas, Phelps said he thought about taking his own life.

    "The struggles I have had weren’t easy, and they weren't fun. But they are a part of my journey," Phelps said Thursday. "I truly encourage everybody to ask for help or to reach out to somebody … and to be there in a time of need."

    He checked himself into a rehab clinic in October 2014. Now, his Michael Phelps Foundation works to support active lifestyles for young people.

    Schmitt made her first Olympic appearance at the 2008 Beijing games. but depression hit after the 2012 London Olympics, CNN reports. Schmitt said she considered driving her car off the road on the way to her sisters’ hockey game after two seasons that did not land her a spot on the USA swim team. 

    It was Phelps who helped Schmitt get help, and she thanked him for that Thursday.

    "Thank you for being that lending hand for hope and help," she said.

    Phelps also encouraged others to reach out.

    "This is something we all have the power to change, and we can make a difference," Phelps said.