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Olympian and mental health advocate
One of the most decorated American athletes of all-time, four-time Olympian Allison Schmitt is normally seen with a large smile on her face and a gold medal around her neck.
But what the camera doesn’t show is Schmitt is one of nearly 20 million U.S. adults battling depression. And she has made it her mission outside of the pool to help bring awareness to this all-too-prevalent disease.
The captain of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team at both the 2016 Rio Games and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Schmitt is an avid mental health advocate, speaking out about her personal struggles with depression and her family’s tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide.She is an advisory council member for the Michael Phelps Foundation, where she works alongside her former training partner to help educate people on the importance of water safety and mental wellness.
This passion for helping those battling mental health issues has led Schmitt to dedicate her life to the cause: She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Georgia, is completing her master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University and plans to pursue a career in mental health after she retires from competitive swimming.
In 2017, Schmitt was presented with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Special Recognition Award for speaking openly about her struggles. This all began after the 2012 London Games, where Schmitt won five medals.
“I didn’t like myself,” Schmitt said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I didn’t like that I was feeling like that. I thought if I suppressed it, it would go away. But it was something where I needed help from outside sources.”
While working toward her master’s at Arizona State, Schmitt is working as a counselor.
“The biggest thing is for people to understand it is OK to reach out and ask for help,” she said.