Even Olympians Struggle With Their Mental Health

Simone Biles, of the United States, waits for her turn to perform during the artistic gymnastics women’s final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)  

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games has shed light on a topic that is largely unspoken of in the athletic world: mental health.

Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast, was the star of this season’s Olympics. She has 30 Olympic and World Championship medals and is widely considered to be one of the best gymnasts of all time.

However, even the greatest athletes struggle with their mental health. After Biles struggled in her vault event, she decided to drop out of the team finals altogether. The next day, she dropped out of the Olympic individual all-around competition, citing “mental health” reasons. “Physically, I feel good,” Biles admitted on TODAY after withdrawing, “Emotionally it varies on the time and moment. Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat.” Biles’ struggles show even if you are in peak physical condition, your mental headspace can affect your overall wellbeing and performance. “We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too,” Biles said. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.” Biles is not the first Olympian to speak out about mental health and the mounting pressures that athletes face to perform. In June, Japan’s Naomi Osaka backed out of the tennis French Open to focus on her mental wellbeing. This was the first time in professional tennis history that a prominent athlete walked away from a major event without physical injury. She revealed her battle with depression and anxiety, especially leading up to press conferences. Even though Osaka faced a $15,000 fine and risked being banned altogether from the French Open, she decided to prioritize her mental health and skip the media interviews. Biles admitted that Osaka inspired her to speak out about her own mental health issues. This year, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) added a new team of licensed mental health providers to focus exclusively on the athletes’ mental health. This includes treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, trauma and more. According to NAMI, about 1 in 5 US adults experience some form of mental illness in a year. It is important to remove the stigma that mental illnesses have by talking about them on a more regular basis. Open dialogue about mental health can help people feel more comfortable talking about their symptoms and learn how to heal effectively. At JRM&A we lead with compassionate, trauma-informed therapeutic models that are personalized and solution-focused to help support our clients’ needs and attain their personal goals. We want to spread the message that you are not alone in your mental health struggle and we are here to help you. Here are some resources to reach out and get help:
  • If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
  • To receive referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations, you can call the SAMHSA National Helpline at  1-800-662-HELP.
  • To ask questions, receive support and practical next steps, you can also call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI.
  • To talk with one of our licensed therapists, schedule an appointment with us.

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