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SHRM21 Welcomes Michael Phelps in Discussion on Mental Health Awareness

Phelps joined SHRM's CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. as the Keynote at Friday's Session at SHRM's Annual Conference

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. and Michael Phelps on stage at SHRM Annual Conference and Expo.

Las Vegas — Today, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP hosted USA world champion swimmer Michael Phelps in a discussion on mental health at SHRM's Annual Conference and Exposition (SHRM21) in Las Vegas.

"It was an honor to host Michael Phelps today to discuss this very important issue of mental health," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., Chief Executive Officer, Society for Human Resource Management. "Attention to mental health and wellness, especially in our workplace, is crucial to employee retention, job satisfaction, productivity and overall success. People are our greatest asset, and as HR professionals we are committed to better understanding the challenges facing our employees and providing a safe and supportive culture in our workplace."

SHRM has long recognized the importance of including mental health awareness in an overall health program for organizations and welcomed Michael Phelps at their largest annual event to discuss leadership, discipline, mental health challenges, and what it takes to maintain a champion's mindset.

After not medaling in his first Olympics, Michael Phelps earned 28 Olympic medals, including a record-setting 23 Gold medals in his next four Olympics, and he set 39 world records over the course of his career. In 2008, he established the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes water safety, healthy living, both physical and mental, and the pursuit of dreams. The Michael Phelps Foundation's signature program—"I.M."– is a healthy living and goal-setting curriculum based on the principles and tools Phelps utilized in his swimming career.

Today's discussion focused on overcoming disappointment from missing out on a medal by hundredths of a second in his first Olympics, being a leader and helping others who may be struggling with depression or other mental health challenges, preparation (both physical and mental), the overwhelming expectations he put on himself as an elite athlete, and the decision to go public about struggling with mental illness.

Phelps addressed taking care of your whole health, both physical and mental health. He said if we want to be our 100 percent best health then you have to pay attention to your physical health and your mental health. He also discussed some of the methods he uses in dealing with stress, including meditation, mindfulness and exercise to name a few.

He said therapy saved his life. He said his first episode of depression came after the 2004 Olympics. But following his second DUI, Phelps said he was suffering and felt he didn't want to be alive. Fortunately, he realized he wanted help, he asked for help, and checked himself into therapy. A decision he says literally saved his life.

To accelerate the movement to eliminate the stigma of mental health in the workplace and foster an organizational culture where workplace mental health can be discussed openly, and help organizations build a more complete approach to employee wellness, the SHRM Foundation, the philanthropic affiliate of SHRM, launched the Workplace Mental Health and Wellness initiative earlier this year. Mental health wellness is critical to retaining employees and sustaining productivity. Through this initiative SHRM Foundation will be providing the tools to HR professionals to recognize and address mental health challenges in the workplace and address them in a supportive manner.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM. 

About SHRM Foundation

Founded in 1966 as the philanthropic affiliate of SHRM, the SHRM Foundation elevates and empowers HR to lead positive social change impacting work, workers and the workplace, contributing to a world of work that works for all.  The SHRM Foundation's robust and relevant evidence-based programming inspires HR professionals to hire and retain diverse talent, build inclusive workplaces, and help employees find purpose at work and beyond.


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