SOUTH PORTLAND, ME: Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps and Panasonic Corporation of North America are teaming up to provide social-emotional curricula to Boys & Girls Clubs across the country in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month.
The Michael Phelps Foundation’s IM Program has been expanded, and the organization has made a commitment of more than $100,000 in grants, giving children additional access to resources for mental health programming. The push, which includes water safety, healthy living and goal-setting curriculum, is part of the Team Panasonic initiative launched by Panasonic this year. Team Panasonic is aiming to “inspire today’s youth to dream big and to work hard to make those dreams come true,” the company said in a statement.
Phelps shared a raw account of his mental health during the pandemic with ESPN on Monday, saying, “This is the most overwhelmed I've ever felt in my life.”
Phelps is being honored as PRWeek’s 2020 Communicator of the Year in recognition of his work to reduce stigma about depression and mental health issues.
He is the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning 23 gold medals and 28 in total. But away from the pool, Phelps struggled with debilitating depression and anxiety.
Phelps has introduced stress management into programs offered by the Michael Phelps Foundation and has worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In May 2018, Phelps used his global platform to publicly admit that “it’s OK to not be OK.” Partnering with online therapy platform Talkspace, he shared his personal experiences in TV ads and YouTube videos, encouraging people to speak openly about mental health and demonstrating the benefits of Talkspace.
“Accepting professional help changed my life. When I fully embraced that it’s OK to not be OK, I opened up and discovered there is strength in vulnerability. Ironically, I learned to communicate at 30!” Phelps said, reacting to his award. “We are all impacted by mental health and communication is the key to understanding, connection and meaningful change.”
In November 2019, Phelps was number one on PRWeek and sister title MM&M’s Health Influencer 50 list for his advocacy about mental health issues.