Simone Biles’ Contribution to Recognizing Mental Health Greater Than Sport

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Superstar gymnast Simone Biles won bronze on the individual beam after taking a break to deal with her mental health.

“I really feel the weight of the world on my shoulders,” she wrote on her Instagram account ahead of Tuesday’s beam final, where she finished behind two Chinese gymnasts. “The Olympics are no joke!”

While her athletic accomplishments undoubtedly place her among the greatest athletes of all time, it is her actions outside of sport that will make a real difference to so many people, myself included.

A few years ago, I began to suffer from several panic attacks per day. Some of them were so bad that I ended up being hospitalized. At the time, I didn’t even know what a panic attack was. I thought I had a physical problem to solve, like a cold or a virus. Once someone close to me suggested that it might be an idea to check for psychological reasons for panic attacks, I got confused. I didn’t want to admit that I might have a mental health problem. After being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I felt ashamed. What would my family and friends say? Will I lose my job?

I felt like there was no one else like me on the planet. I was feeling alone.

But the hardest part was yet to come. Dealing with your mental health means not only battling an illness, but also the perceptions and stigma of others. Plus, many of us are expected to perform regardless of our circumstances, whether in the workplace or in social terms. Often times you just need a break to take care of yourself, just like anyone would get a rest if they have a cold.

One of the world’s most famous athletes decided to do just that and explained how mental stress can hit you harder than any physical illness; how anyone can suffer from mental health issues, regardless of their physical form, fame or wealth; that there is no shame in talking about it and living with it.

People like me can easily understand Simone Biles’ decision to only compete when her mental health situation permits. The way she wasn’t afraid to publicly admit the reason she took a break from the world’s biggest sporting scene, with millions of people eagerly awaiting her performance and expecting her to do so. she delivered, meant that many people like me felt seen, people whose struggles were often belittled, sometimes even ignored.

Because of Simone Biles’ decision, more people will understand that metal pressure is “no joke”.

For that alone, his achievements at Tokyo 2020 should be considered far more important than any gold medal. DW

  • Key words: mental health, Simone Biles


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