It seems that Michael realized the importance of mental health largely due to his own experience. "I came across depression for the first time after Olympic Games Athens 2004. I think that was just the jump start to my mental health, and after that, they just kept on coming in waves. That was when I was finally able to really see that, "This is who I am and it's a part of me, it's not going to go away." So I needed to learn more about it."
After that, Michael saw other athletes suffer from mental challenges just like he did. He also told us about the experience of providing support to fellow swimmers to help get through some struggles. He continued, "For me, it's been an honor that they've felt comfortable to be able to share their stories with me and allow me to try to help. It's very challenging for people to become vulnerable because they think it might be weakness. Where in reality, you're growing, you're learning and you're becoming stronger."
At the end of the session, Michael sent a message to the children participating in the event. "It's important to have a dream because that's what's going to drive you and motivate you. Nobody wants to get out of bed every single day, but a goal is going to help you. I would say the biggest thing is never give up. If there is something in your way, find a way to get around it, find a way to climb over it. Don't be afraid to dream as big as you possibly can. For me, growing up, people thought I was crazy wanting to do something different in the sport, do something nobody else never done in the sport, but I was excited. That was something that got me out of bed and motivated me every day, and my dream is my dream. So I think never let anything stand in your way, and if something doesn't go as planned, go back to come up with a new answer or a new path." The message from Michael, who overcame many difficulties and accomplished great achievements, were very powerful and seemed to have resonated many participants.
After the talk session had finished, the two speakers answered to questions raised by the participants.
Question: What would you say to a friend who is struggling with mental health challenges?
Michael: "From my own experience, when I'm struggling with my own mental health, there are times when you feel like I'm all alone. So I want to try to get across everybody out there that you're not alone. It's OK to not be OK, and it's OK to ask for help. Especially over the last year and a half that we've been through, we've had a lot of challenges that have been thrown our way. You have somebody out there that can offer space for you."
Question: What do you think is necessary to continuously produce results?
Ms. Hoshi: "I always set a big goal, but not only that, I always set smaller goals that I can accomplish on the way. The bigger the goal, the harder it is to reach it, so I think it's important to keep on proceeding as you feel the satisfaction of accomplishing smaller goals."
Michael: "I agree 100 % with Ms. Hoshi. You have to have short term goals and long term goals. The Olympic Games happens every 4 years, and that's a long time. So you want to make sure that you have little stepping stones that you're reaching through those 4 years. We have world championships, Pan-Pacific, and then we have world championships again before our Olympic Games, so for me, those were all benchmarks. For me, it was all about preparation and training. That was my number one thing. If I wasn't doing that, I had no chance to even come close to my goals and dreams. I was willing to do anything, and that was the reason I was able to be successful."