Putting Your Mental Health First

There is no doubt Simone Biles decision to withdraw from Olympic events caused a wave across media platforms and it is highlighting the need for many conversations around abuse, enablers, mental health awareness and self care.

Elite athletes and celebrities are the leading voices for overdue conversations about abuse and mental health, making headlines in Time, The Wall St. Journal, ESPN, Vogue, and the New York Times.

Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Games to focus on her mental well-being. The decision came after Biles also removed herself from the team final following one rotation, on vault. Biles cited her mental health as the reason when speaking to the media following the competition.

Andrea Orris, who coached and competed at Illinois State and trained with Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy stated, “It makes me so frustrated to see comments about Simone not being mentally tough enough or quitting on her team. For non-gymnasts, the fact that she balked mid-air and accidentally did a 1.5 on her first vault instead of a 2.5 is a big deal. It’s terrifying. She could have been severely injured getting lost in the air like that.” Oriis also importantly noted, “that girl has endured more trauma by the age of 24 than most people will ever go through in a lifetime.”

Biles was abused for much of her career by convicted former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Biles recently testified at a senate hearing, stating USA Gymnastics was aware, “enabled and perpetrated Nassar’s abuse”.

After her withdrawal from Olympic events, Ms. Biles tweeted, “the outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before”. Celebrity athletes have also weighed in with support such as PGA tour star golfer Rory McIlroy tweeted his support for both Ms. Biles and Naomi Osaka who also suffered with mental health issues during the Olympics. Justin Beiber also gave his support, “Nobody will ever understand the pressures you face! I know we don’t know each other but I’m so proud of the decision to withdraw. It’s as simple as -what does it mean to gain the world but forfeit your soul,” he wrote. Beiber has experienced first hand the impact fame can have on mental health.

My thoughts are kind of a curiosity and fascination surrounding the onslaught of comments regarding Biles decision to withdraw from competition. Living in the international spotlight, Biles chose to address the issue of mental health head on, bringing much needed awareness to abuse and mental health issues. Ms. Biles is capable of directing and managing her life.  She is the best expert about her self and I trust her as that expedient to make the right decisions. 

Dealing with your mental health is a priority and it is important for anyone suffering with mental health issues to get the treatment they need sooner rather than later. As a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), and member of the British Columbia Association of Clinical Counsellors, and a member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, click here for insights to my therapy approach.

In Canada, there is access to free mental health from a variety of sources.

With the Olympics now over, Biles along with other athletes and celebrities, have certainly helped to transform the much needed awareness of mental health issues and end the stigma surrounding mental health.

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