Michael Phelps has revealed he was suicidal as he isolated himself from friends and family at the deepest point of his depression in 2014.
The record-breaking Olympic gold-medallist and father-of-two said rock bottom for him came in October that year, after he was arrested for his second DUI offence.
Opening up about his long-running battle with depression on the Today show, he said: ‘For me I was so down on myself, I didn’t have any self-love, quite honestly I didn’t want to be alive.
“I was so down on myself. I didn’t have any self-love, and quite honestly I just didn’t want to be alive.” @MichaelPhelps talks about the difficult time in his life in Oct. 2014 pic.twitter.com/ky2gXOXHev
‘It was a really, really crazy time. I didn’t want to see anybody because I saw myself as letting so many people down, and myself in particular, and that’s hard to carry.
‘I think over those three or four days when I didn’t want to leave my room or talk to anybody, I realized that I can ask for help and it’s OK to not be OK.
‘For me that’s what changed my life, I never asked for help in my career and that’s the first time I did that.
‘I was on my knees and crying for help and I’m lucky to be able to sit down with a therapist and chat and open up.’
Phelps said it was ‘challenging’ to break a lifetime habit of dealing with problems himself, but that he ‘found a way to get through it.’
He told hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb that he fought depression throughout his glittering career but was always good at hiding it.
It was after he announced his first retirement from swimming in 2012, after a breakdown in his relationship with national team coach Bob Bowman, that his mental health began to really suffer.
Phelps announced a return to swimming in 2014, saying that this time he would be competing ‘to enjoy the journey’, but the end of his troubles were not in sight.
In September he was arrested a second time for DUI – having already been caught intoxicated behind the wheel in 2004, and photographed smoking a bong in 2009.
It was after that arrest that his depression reached its lowest point, but after seeking out a therapist, he was able to effectively manage the condition.
Come the Rio Olympics in 2016, Phelps scooped five gold medals, including claiming back the 200m butterfly medal that he lost to Chad le Clos in 2012.
Having cemented his reputation as the greatest Olympic swimmer of all time, and one of the greatest Olympians, he announced a second retirement in August 2016.
Since then he has become an advocate for mental health issues and Talkspace, which is an online and smartphone portal for mental health patients to get in touch with therapists.
Phelps says he still battles with depression, which he expects to do for the rest of his life, but he is now better able to cope with the condition.
Around 20million Americans are thought to be suffering with some form of depression in any given year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Meanwhile anxiety disorders are thought to affect around 40million people, making them the most common mental illness in the US.
Despite that, only around 37 per cent of people suffering from anxiety, and 60 per cent suffering from depression, are actively seeking treatment.