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'It's OK not to be OK': Michael Phelps opens up about anxiety in new documentary

The filmmakers of a new documentary about how everyone to some extent faces anxiety have enlisted Michael Phelps to show that even world champions can feel low.

Iconic swimmer discusses being bullied, depressed

Twenty three-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps shared his story of being bullied and depressed in a new documentary about anxiety. (Jordan Strauss/The Associated Press)

A new documentary about anxiety argues that everyone to some extent suffers from stress, nerves and social fear. And, to make their point, the filmmakers have enlisted as Exhibit A the most decorated Olympian in history.

Michael Phelps appears in "Angst" to share his story of being bullied and depressed, leading to severe anxiety. The swimmer, winner of 28 Olympic medals, would look in the mirror and not like what he saw.

"Once I opened up about that and things that I had kept inside of me for so many years, I then found that life was a lot easier. I got to the point where I understood that it's OK to not be OK," he says in the film.

"Angst," an IndieFlix film designed to be screened at schools and community centres, features candid interviews with children and young adults discussing their anxiety, along with advice from mental health experts and resources and tools. Phelps is like a muscular explanation mark for what the filmmakers wanted to show — that even world champions can feel low.

"I'm grateful because my mission with this film is to help make the world a better place and I believe he is so additive on that level," said Scilla Andreen, CEO and co-founder of IndieFlix.

"If we can introduce prevention, self-care and well-being to our children — even in the pre-K and kindergarten years — they can have a completely different life."

Andreen hopes the film will reach more than 3 million people around the world from 25,000 community and school screenings. "Angst" was filmed in the U.S. and United Kingdom and is appropriate for children starting at age 10.

"Anxiety is totally treatable," she said. "It can be a precursor to so many things that can then lead to addiction, homelessness, dropping out of school and a host of other mental health challenges."

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