8-time Olympic swimming medalist opens up about depression

Olympic swimming medalist Allison Schmitt shared her bout with depression after a family member's suicide in hopes that her message can help someone in need.

She’s known as an eight-time Olympic swimming medalist who’s trained with Michael Phelps for more than a decade.

But after emerging from a personal battle with depression and a death in the family, Allison Schmitt is now trying to destigmatize the negativity surrounding mental health.

In a one-on-one interview with 12 News' Trisha Hendricks, she opened up about what she’s gone through and how she hopes to help others.

"I have eight medals from the Olympics, so I mean, those kind of just go under my bed," said Schmitt, reflecting on her accomplishments and, of course, the medals she's brought home.

"Of course they mean a lot, but what really means the most is what went into those, what went into those not only from my own sweat and tears, but from everyone else's around me," she said.

When Schmitt got back from the London Olympics in 2012 with five medals, three of them gold, underneath all the success she found herself internalizing dark thoughts. It was the start of depression.

"The bad days overruled the good days,” said Schmitt.

It wasn't until her 17-year old cousin April committed suicide in May of 2015 she decided to speak up.

"I wouldn't have ever said anything,” she said. “I would've still been feeling that shame and embarrassment.”

It was then she found support through a psychologist, her coach and her friend and teammate Michael Phelps, who encouraged her to ask for help.

"Him and Nicole are definitely a great support system," she said.

Schmitt went on to win gold and silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

She's now sharing her personal experience about mental illness and the pain she endured through her cousin's death.

"I know that her presence will always be with us and I can be the one on Earth that stands here and spreads her message that it's OK to ask for help," Schmitt said, "and hope I can make her smile looking down on us."

Today, Allison is able to cope with her bad days a lot better. She's now going to graduate school at ASU striving to impact the lives of others.

"Hopefully save some lives," she said.

In the meantime, she does find a few times a week to jump in the pool to stay in shape, but she doesn't have any plans to go for a ninth medal.

"My next medal will be my career as a counselor," said Schmitt with a smile.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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