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Michael Phelps quietly struggled with his mental health behind closed doors.

"I was running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from."

Michael Phelps quietly struggled with his mental health behind closed doors.

At the 2012 Olympics in London, the world recognized Michael Phelps as the unrivaled champion of the swimming pool.

Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images.


But behind closed doors, the American athlete says, he was wrestling with inner demons far away from the prying spotlight.

“I went in with no self-confidence, no self-love," Phelps said in a recent interview with NBC's "Dateline" of his time in London four years ago. “I think the biggest thing was, I thought of myself as just a swimmer, and nobody else.”

Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images.

The most decorated Olympian in history — the man who's won a record-breaking 18 gold medals in the swimming pool — says he had been struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse for a while. And nobody except his closest friends and family knew about it:

“100%, I was lost, pushing a lot people out of my life — people that I wanted and needed in my life. I was running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from.”

It took a life-changing run-in with the law in 2014 for Phelps to realize he needed help.

About a year and a half ago, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence — the second time he was charged with the offense. The arrest was a major wake-up call.

“I was [in] the lowest place I’ve ever been," he told "Dateline." "Honestly, I sort of, at one point, I just — I felt like I didn’t want to see another day. I felt like it should be over."

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

Phelps checked himself into a rehab clinic in October 2014, where he says he cried himself to sleep the first several nights. But through treatment, Phelps was able to address many of the underlying issues affecting his health, including a turbulent relationship with his father dating back to childhood.

Today, as Phelps trains for the Olympics this summer, he says he's in a much better place.

When celebrities speak out about their mental health struggles, it's worth noticing because their courage can be contagious.

Take, for instance, Hayden Panettiere. The Internet rallied behind the actress after she addressed living with postpartum depression in recent months.

"The postpartum depression I have been experiencing has impacted every aspect of my life,” she told followers on Twitter last week. “Rather than stay stuck due to unhealthy coping mechanisms, I have chosen to take time to reflect holistically on my health and life. Wish me luck!"

Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for NBCUniversal.

In March, "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller chose to take a viral Internet meme making fun of his weight and use it to shine a light on the dangers of depression.

When the viral photo was taken about six years ago, he was suicidal. Food had been "the one thing I could look forward to," he'd explained in a Facebook post:

"Long story short, I survived. So do those pictures. I'm glad. Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons."

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images.

These stories about our favorite actors and athletes — the same people whose posters line our bedroom walls and epitomize the glitz and glamour of success — can be difficult to hear.

But their openness can inspire fans and readers to face their own struggles, and that bravery can become a powerful catalyst for change.

Now, Phelps is looking ahead to the Olympics this summer with his eye on the prize. But win or lose, he already feels like a champ.

I’m having fun again," Phelps said. "This is something I haven’t had in a really long time."

His fiancée, Nicole, just gave birth to their son earlier this month. And becoming a dad has been the "best feeling" he's ever felt in his life.

It sounds like he's already snagged the gold.

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on
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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Anyone who came of age during the late 80's and early 90s is at least somewhat familiar with The Oregon Trail game. As one of the most popular computer-based video games of all time, it's a well-loved classic for late Gen Xers and early Millennials.

The game was designed to be educational, to teach kids about the Lewis & Clark expedition and westward expansion of the United States in the mid-1800s. Players were part of a wagon train traveling out west, encountering various challenges and pitfalls along the way, including the dreaded dysentery that led to countless players' demise.

Kids loved it. But unfortunately, not all of its lessons were accurate. In fact, the representation of Native Americans in the game perpetuated common stereotypes and myths about the Indigenous people of the time. Even one of the co-creators of the original game has said in recent years that it should have included a Native perspective.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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