Olympian Tom Shields Opens Up About His Mental Health In Instagram Post

American Olympian Tom Shields has revealed that just over one year ago he attempted suicide in a recent Instagram post.

In the post, Shields explains what led him up to the point, how seeking professional help has positively impacted him over the last year, and thanks all of the people who have supported him. Check out the full post below (profanity alert):


View this post on Instagram


A little over a year ago I tried to hang myself. If G didn’t miraculously turn around and come home from her commute I wouldn’t be alive today. She called me out of the blue at a time I normally wouldn’t be reachable, and distracted me til she got back⁣. ⁣ The best description I can offer of what happened:⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I was a caught in a certain line of thinking, one that convinced me “I should get out of the way of the people I hurt, I will never get my shit together, or be worthwhile. I am simply incapable of becoming the person I want to be, so the best course of action would be to die, and cease the pain I bring into the world”. I had spent many years fantasizing and reveling in this line of thought. My therapist has convinced me that this belief is not connected to who I am. It is rather a “neural pathway” that may have helped me survive an earlier time in my life, but is simply hurting me now. I have learned many strategies to help me deal with it, but it’s a daily battle.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ If you feel any resonation with the above, I urge you to seek help immediately, because it could be any old day that the thoughts take over, and you act out against yourself. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ I owe thanks to more than I can ever mention, but to those in my life who rescued me; my wife, the guys at cal, Dave, Chase, my friends back home, USA swimming, a special shout out to @sean28mahoney, and even more people who, with or without knowing it, helped me unfuck my brain and gave me time/support to grow. This past year has been the hardest, coolest, most rewarding time of my life.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ This is the first picture of Gianna and I after that time. She had gotten us a hotel and took the rest of the week off to be there for me. I am so thankful for her, and do not understand how I got so lucky. She is the light of my life, and the most supportive, kind, loving, and patient person I’ve ever met. ⁣⁣⁣ It’s crazy to look back. I am so thankful for a year of growth, one I wouldn’t trade for anything. A younger version of me would be bummed I didn’t swim a best time or good at all for a 5th year in a row, but I am finally learning to recognize and to value different kinds of growth.

A post shared by Tom Shields (@beefytshields) on

The now 28-year-old wrote that he tried to hang himself before his wife gave him a call and distracted him until arriving home.

A multi-time NCAA champion with the Cal Golden Bears, Shields has gone on to lead a successful professional career that includes a berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team where he won a gold medal in the men’s 4×100 medley relay.

This past summer, the two-time SC World Champion won a pair of gold medals at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and followed that up with a very successful performance in the inaugural season of the International Swimming League competing for the LA Current. He won 3 races in the opening ISL season, and finished 11th in the season-long MVP scoring.

If you or someone you know has had suicidal thoughts or exhibited any of the warning signs, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website here (suicidepreventionlifeline.org) if you’re in the US.

You can find a list of international hotlines here.

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Backstroke Bro
1 year ago

It takes a lot of introspection to be able to realize that the way you talk to yourself can be harmful, and a lot of courage to come out and tell people about it, especially on this public of a setting. Proud of you Tom

Joel Lin
Reply to  Backstroke Bro
1 year ago

He’s always been & always will be one of my favorite people in the sport. This hits like a hurricane. Reminds us all to be the ones trying to let the light in a bit more.

1 year ago

Reading this broke my heart. I’m glad he shared it with the swimming community so we can rally and support him in and out of the pool. I wish him only the best.

cynthia curran
Reply to  A CAR
1 year ago

Yeah, that is the hardest thing not living up to exceptions for yourself. . He has a wife and family that loves him.

1 year ago

This instagram post is going to help people. Thanks for writing it Tom. A lot of people have loved watching you compete over the years.

Reply to  Swimmmm
1 year ago

Agreed. I am convinced every video like this helps and or saves countless lives. Major props to Shields

1 year ago

Beefy Shields is the goat. Super glad you’re still with us today.

People, chill out with the piano jokes from now on.

Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 year ago

I don’t think people realize how harsh comments on here affect people (and yes, swimmers and coaches do read them). Our sport is better than this.

Major props to Tom for having the courage to get help and to speak about such a deeply personal topic. I wish a healthy and happy future for the young man.

Sapnu puas
1 year ago

Ow this moved me 🙁
Good job on him speaking out and I hope he can stay on the right path now and continues to improve. Good luck Mr Shields!

1 year ago

Wow, I didn’t expect this to be so heavy when I clicked on the article. Something more should probably be said in the title of the article, this is clearly more extreme than just a mental health update

Becky D
Reply to  Sccoach
1 year ago

Good grief.

Reply to  Sccoach
1 year ago

You poor thing..? It’s more important that those who need these messages see them than those who don’t need them don’t see them.

1 year ago

Amazing to put this publicly. It takes a ton of courage to do that. I am so glad Tom is still here even though I don’t personally know him I know the struggle. Glad you are with us Tom and keep fighting

Chaitha D.
1 year ago

This really shocked me man. So happy that Tom was helped and that he is helping so many more by sharing his story.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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