In HBO's new documentary The Weight of Gold, a number of athletes, including Michael Phelps, speak to their mental health battles following the Olympics

By Eric Todisco
July 29, 2020 11:08 AM
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Michael Phelps is helping highlight the mental health struggles athletes face in the new HBO documentary, The Weight of Gold.

The documentary, which premieres Wednesday, showcases a number of Olympic athletes, including Phelps, 35, that have grappled with the highs and lows of competing on the national stage.

"There are so many of us out there that really are struggling," the 23-time gold medal swimmer told Today's Savannah Guthrie in an interview on Wednesday.

"It took five Olympics for me to really see it," he added. "I think me being in the mental state that I was going into 2016, allowed me that opportunity to be open to have the interactions that I had with the other athletes, and that led me to believe that there are others who are struggling and struggling very, very hard."

Phelps said that "it was wild to see that I wasn't alone" when he learned from other Olympic athletes featured in the documentary — such as Apolo Ohno, Lolo Jones, and Gracie Gold — that they too have struggled with mental health.

"But it also made me feel good because there were other people that could help understand 'It's okay to not be okay,' " he said.

The retired swimmer also explained to Guthrie why he believes so many Olympic athletes grapple with mental health issues, despite their successful careers.

"I think it's just the journey that we go on," he shared. "As kids growing up, we see this thing of being an Olympian and winning a gold medal, and we don't see the bumps that you go through or could have as an Olympian. Over the last five years, I've really been able to open up and share my experiences, and I'm so thankful that we were able to have a half a dozen athletes, or more, stand up next to us and talk about the same struggles."

Michael Phelps in The Weight of Gold trailer
Michael Phelps

Phelps said that with The Weight of Gold, he hopes fellow athletes, as well as viewers, will get a better understanding of facing depression and anxiety, among other things.

"You'll see in the documentary, it's very raw," he said. "It probably will help you shed a tear. These are what we lived with, and there are other people out there going through this as well.

"It's going to be difficult," Phelps added, "but it's something we need to talk about and address."

The Weight of Gold, directed by Brett Rapkin, premieres on Wednesday, July 29 on HBO.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org