Life could not have been better for Allison Schmitt, who had returned from the London Olympics in 2012 with five medals and an adoring fan base who nicknamed her “Schmitty.” While everyone cheered for her, Allison could not see the positive side. Initially understood to be a post-Olympics letdown, things did not get any better even after two-and-a-half years and Allison continued to suffer and have bad days.
Despite everyone around the Olympic swimmer seeing the medals, the glory, telling her how they wished to be her at that moment, she could not feel anything. She was suffering from depression. As part of the series for the Mental Health Awareness Month, we are sharing stories of inspiring women across the globe who suffered from mental health disorders, their struggles and how they overcame their disability.
In an interview with the U.S. News on May 3, 2017, Allison stated, “I wasn’t getting better and things were getting to the point (where) I kept internalizing it and I’d had dark thoughts and thoughts of suicide and it scared me.”
Allison, who won a gold and a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, felt paralyzed and suffered from a block that could not let her see the positive side of life no matter how hard she tried. Then she first sought help from a therapist, her coach and her teammate Michael Phelps, and soon opened up to her family and friends post the death of her cousin April Bocian who committed suicide in May 2015.
Speaking about her illness, Allison said, “(Depression) is paralyzing in that you’re not living life to the fullest; you have a block that you cannot see the positive side no matter how many people tell you to be positive, no matter how hard you try, no matter how many books you read. The only hope from there is seeking help.”
What made Allison came out was the effect her cousin’s suicide had on the family. Post undergoing treatment, Allison now wants to destigmatize mental illness and encourage those struggling silently to get help. The 26-year-old Olympian said that mental illness was something that one deals with every day. Rendering her full support to the cause of mental health, Allison said, “My goal (is for mental illness) to not be the elephant in the room; to have it be a normal conversation. Accept that it’s OK to not feel OK.”
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2015, there were over 43 million people aged 18 years or older in the country – representing about 18 percent of all adult population — with any mental illness (AMI) within the previous year. To raise awareness about mental illness and related issues in the country, May is observed as the National Mental Health Awareness Month (NMHAM). This year, the event aims at educating people about habits and behaviors increasing the risk of developing or aggravating mental illness including risk factors such as prescription drug misuse, marijuana abuse and risky sex.
While mental illness does not discriminate, women are at a greater risk of developing anxiety and depression. As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), from puberty till about the age of 50, women are twice as likely to have anxiety disorders as men. When left untreated, mental health disorders can have life-threatening consequences.
At Sovereign Health of Arizona, a women only rehab, women suffering from mental health conditions receive comprehensive and individualized behavioral health treatment in a safe and supportive environment. Our women’s only residential treatment center in Arizona offers highest quality care for mental health disorders, substance addiction and co-occurring conditions to all our women patients. For more information on the various treatment programs offered at Sovereign Health’s women’s only rehab in Arizona, please call our 24/7 helpline number. You can also chat online with one of our representatives to know about our finest mental health retreats for women near you.
Read the other articles of the series “Mental Health Awareness Month: Celebrities who won over mental illness:”