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):


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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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3 years ago

this is heartbreaking, but i think this will help so many who are contemplating the same thing to rethink. so so brave of him…i’m in tears

ACC fan
3 years ago

You are so much more than your Swimming Tom! Sending you love and support.❤️

3 years ago

Extraordinary achievers like Tom shields who share their serious mental health challenges have such productive courage it’s Just not possible to exaggerate it. His story will likely inspire many people who think they are the only ones facing this seemingly uncontrollable level of despair now understand it literally can happen to anyone, know matter how successful you are – and it’s ok to ask for some help.

What a star.

3 years ago

At the Pan-Am Games, he showed incredible resilience after his 200 fly race to win the 100 fly gold medal. I don’t think many swimmers could have bounced back like that.

Here is a short video of the race and finish and then Tom on the podium with his gold medal.


3 years ago

Tom swam at PAC Masters Championships in April. We are still talking about it. 1:39 200 fly. Everyone was honored and amazed to watch that much talent just drop a 1:39! I️ hope we get to enjoy swimming with Mr Shields for a long time to come.


Would love to see Anthony, Natalie, etc rejoin us at meets, as Nathan Adrian has done. It’s so amazing to have these swimmers in the water.

3 years ago

Tom, thank you for opening up about this. I have a 19 year old son who has also battled with mental health issues. He is a great kid with many amazing qualities who got caught in a line of thinking.

People like you who use your platform to open up about your own challenges make kids like my son realize he is not alone in his challenges. I am incredibly grateful for your willingness to open up. Please keep shining the bright light this is you in this world. We are better with your light.

3 years ago

Thank you for writing this

3 years ago

As someone who lives with suicidal depression, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having the guts to speak up. As a high school teacher who has worked with thousands of students over 20 years, severe depression is far more common that most people realize. Please watch out for those around you and seek help if you are having suicidal thoughts.

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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