Simone Biles may not have won a gold medal in Tokyo, but wins gold by taking control of her own mental health
By Victor Ortiz, Jr.
Sacrifice is not new to Olympian gymnastic competitor Simone Biles and she bravely exercised this by removing herself from several 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games competitions.
Regarded by many as the best gymnast of all time, Ms. Biles, 24, citing mental health reasons, began pulling out of Olympic competition events on July 27 after she stumbled on a vault routine, while progressively eliminating herself from additional events through Aug. 1 and has since then obtained positive support by fans and spectators over a psychological subject that has been stigmatized.
“You’ve shown the world how talented and hard-working you are. Now you’ve shown us that your mind is even stronger on the most public of stages,” said Jared Padalecki on Twitter.
“You just helped countless people learn that mental health is more valuable than any medal. Way to go champ!”
Another Tweet posted from the account of celebrity, Maureen McCormick, mentioned, “You are the true embodiment of a real-life hero! I respect you so much! Sending you all my love.”
Mental health is a topic that has received mixed signals in the past and recently has garnered more positive attention since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to human isolation and social distancing.
Medical journal, The Lancet, reported in 2016 that people who are diagnosed with a mental health condition suffer more from judgement rather than from their diagnosis and according to the American Psychiatric Association a little over 50 percent of individuals do not seek help for mental illness often because of differential treatment by others or fear over loss of employment.
Individuals do not seek mental health support that might be needed due to a series of stigmatic reasons, including:
- Negative self-talk brought on by judgement
Issues also extend to community due to either embarrassment to patient families over neighborhood reputation or trust of treatment itself.
Black Americans for example have long held a distrust toward the U.S. healthcare system due to the unethical treatment of Black men participating in the Tuskegee Study. Study participants were both deceived and purposely left untreated, which caused irreversible health issues and premature death over the course of several decades.
An article focused on student athlete mental health stigma—particularly in minorities—and published by the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy earlier this year mentioned that past studies have found gender to be linked with reluctance to receive treatment, whereas females are a lot more likely than males to seek mental health treatment. Additionally, 78 percent of student minority athletes admit to needing mental health treatment, but only 11 percent seek out treatment.
Mental health stigma is when someone, including oneself, views it as negative and thus results in ill perceived judgement or opinion overall.
Negative views regarding mental health can be reduced several ways such as offering education and speaking about it more. The Mayo Clinic, along with other reputable sources, have published helpful information online to help guide those suffering from a mental health struggle.
Big Hollywood names like Demi Lovato, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga and others alike have expressed their experiences with the condition.
“It’s very important we create conversations, we take away the stigma, and that we stand up for ourselves if we’re dealing with the symptoms of a mental illness,” Lovato mentioned to Variety in Feb. 2017.
Variety had interviewed Lovato regarding a documentary focused on the personal struggles of people suffering from the condition.
“It is possible to live well and thrive with a mental illness.”
On the world stage, Ms. Biles, too, now has joined the many individuals who have displayed a spark of courage that further highlight the importance of receiving proper mental health treatment, so that others can find similar strength as well.
Biles is a highly decorated gymnast whose extraordinary skill aided her rise to global fame at the Olympics in Rio 2016, where she won four gold medals and one bronze, while also displaying a move she authored, “The Biles.” She is not new to adversity and has shown that in darkness one can be elevated through strength, courage, and support.
“The outpouring love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” Ms. Biles tweeted.
Biles did not win a gold medal in the current Olympics by displaying her superior physical skills in gymnastics, but she did win gold in the hearts of many by showcasing mental strength and grit in being honest with herself, while opening up regarding her recent struggles with mental health.
Biles was awarded bronze after she participated in the balance beam final today.
“I didn’t expect to win a medal today. I just wanted to go out and do it for me, and that’s what I did,” said Biles to KJZ.