Simone Biles Prioritizes Mental Health: Even Our "Superhuman Beings" (Athletes) Aren't Invincible to Mental Health Issues by Reena Patel
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that "mental health is an integral and essential component of health." According to the WHO constitution, health is defined as "a complete state of physical, emotional and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Our society perceives athletes as "superhuman beings” with invincibility. As we watch the Tokyo Olympics, with Simone Biles being the latest athlete to step away from her games due to mental health challenges, we realize that we are all human and can struggle with the same health issues as even these “superhuman beings.” Just that phrase alone makes it hard to believe an athlete can struggle with mental health, especially because they are trained to be so focused mentally and “in the zone” whilst training.
Yes, they have had mental health struggles before, but now athletes feel a sense of advocacy and are using their voice to spread awareness. Here are some factors we should be aware of:
Stressors can impact athletic performance and influence training focus, career transitions, interpersonal relationships and physical recovery.
2. Causes of Mental Health Issues
- fear of failure
- performance expectations
- social media negativity
- being away from home
- predisposition to health issues
- limited social relationships
- organization expectations and the ability to compete
3. Mental Health Stigma
Why not ask for help and share? Due to stigma, many athletes feel pressured to be perfect and not show weakness. There is also the fear of being sidelined during competitions. In the culture of sports, there is a perception to be invincible as well as strong physically and mentally.
What Can We Do?
- Educate and normalize – destigmatize.
- Athletes should have access to a sport psychologist or professionals, just as employers offer HR or support, so should coaches.
- Create a healthy and more sustainable environment where athletes feel comfortable and are able to ask for help, without the fear of negative consequences for their career.
- Reinforce those who share and reach out for support.
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. 🤍
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) July 29, 2021
Photo: Simone Biles' Facebook
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