Simone Biles' withdrawal from the women's team gymnastics final on Tuesday because of mental health concerns "broke my heart," said former US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who has been an advocate for better mental health.
The conversation has taken prime spot at the Olympics after Biles pulled out, which followed tennis star Naomi Osaka's comments on the pressure of the Games impacting athletes' mental health.
"The Olympics is overwhelming," Phelps said. "There's a lot of emotions that go into it."
Phelps echoed earlier remarks from Biles, saying athletes carry "a lot of weight on our shoulders, and it's challenging, especially when we have the lights on us and all of these expectations that are being thrown on top of us."
In addition, the pandemic situation in Japan led to a decision where athletes weren't allowed to bring any family or supporters with them. Many athletes have spoken about the challenge that presents. Australia and WNBA player Liz Cambage, for example, withdrew before the Games began citing mental health reasons, as she was worried about a "bubble" Olympics.
"No family. No friends. No fans. No support system outside of my team. It's honestly terrifying for me. The past month I've been having panic attacks, not sleeping and not eating," Cambage had said about her decision.
Olympic athletes "need someone who we can trust," Phelps said, adding it has to be "somebody that can let us be ourselves and listen, allow us to become vulnerable, somebody who is not going to try and fix us."
"We're human beings. Nobody is perfect. So yes, it is OK to not be OK. It's OK to go through ups and downs and emotional rollercoasters. But I think the biggest thing is we all need to ask for help sometimes too when we go through those times."
Phelps said he hopes this is an opportunity to make the mental health conversation even bigger.
"This is something that's going to take a lot of time, a lot of hard work, and people that are willing to help."
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) hopes it is supporting athletes on issues surrounding mental health but "we can do more on this issue," spokesman Mark Adams said, adding that the committee has a lot of respect and support for Biles.