How Simone Biles Became a Mental Health Champion

How Simone Biles Became a Mental Health Champion

Simone Biles is one of the few people who are probably more recognizable upside down. Always tumbling through the air, Simone has dominated the sport of gymnastics and made a name for herself as one of the most accomplished athletes in recent history. Beyond her achievements on the gymnastics floor, Simone Biles’ mental health advocacy has also solidified her as an influential and positive role model.

Simone Biles and Her Impact on Mental Health Awareness in Sports

Born in Ohio, Simone grew up in and out of the foster care system before her grandparents in Texas adopted her at age 6. At this time, Simone also attended a gymnastics program through her daycare and was encouraged to keep at the sport by her instructors. Eventually, she began formal training and opted for homeschooling to focus on her gymnastics career. The dedication paid off when she earned a spot at the American Classic in 2011 and followed up with her debut at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Simone’s appearance at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was a highly anticipated event that drew millions of viewers. Unfortunately, Simone had to make the difficult decision to withdraw from several events to protect her mental well-being. While many lauded her for her ability and willingness to make the tough call, some criticized her choice, labeling her as selfish and a poor team player. Even in the face of this adversity, Simone prioritized her own mental health and, in turn, helped spark a global conversation on mental wellness within the sports realm and beyond.

Biles’ Struggle With Mental Health and Her Decision to Withdraw From the 2020 Olympics

Simone Biles, along with four other gymnasts who came to be known as the Final Five, dominated at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Her remarkable performances at that year’s competition vaulted her into the spotlight and raised the stakes even higher for her gymnastics career.

Shortly after the 2016 Olympics, Simone’s medical records were leaked in an international cybersecurity breach. The breach revealed that she was taking authorized medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Simone Biles’ medical issues were unfortunately thrust into the public eye, but she opened up about her experience with the condition and was praised for her choice to speak up and get help. This marked her first experience as a vocal proponent of mental health awareness, yet it certainly wasn’t her last.

Simone qualified for the 2020 Olympics, and she competed in several events at the start of the games. However, her performance began to suffer, and she withdrew from several events. She took to social media to express her frustration and “feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders,” as she wrote in a post.

Simone also revealed that her decision to withdraw from much of the competition was largely due to what’s known in the gymnastic world as the “twisties.” This happens when a gymnast attempts a maneuver and suddenly loses their sense of balance and depth perception while in the air. It’s an unsettling phenomenon that can lead to outcomes ranging from poor performance to serious injury if they’re unable to safely land.

The Importance of Prioritizing Mental Health in Athletics, the Impact of Stigma and the Need for Support

No matter how skilled they are on the field, court or balance beam, all athletes are human beings with limits. The pressures of competing and the expectations of success can wear on even the strongest players and lead to poor mental health. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 35% of elite athletes deal with mental health struggles, according to The American College of Sports Medicine.

There’s a common misconception that if athletes are in excellent physical shape, they must also be in proper mental shape as well. While mental health is positively impacted by exercise, athletes must still take proactive steps to stay mentally well, which may include therapy or medications.

It’s also important for athletes to publicly support one another when it comes to mental health advocacy. Simone was in good company when she withdrew from the competition over mental health concerns, as she stated she drew inspiration from tennis star Naomi Osaka, who opted out of the French Open in 2020 due to concerns for her health.

Simone Biles’ Mental Health Advocacy and Her Initiatives and Partnership With Mental Health Organizations

These days, Simone keeps herself busy with both gymnastics and mental health advocacy. Soon after the 2020 Olympics, Simone was tapped by mental health start-up Cerebral to be its chief impact officer. She served as a spokesperson for the brand for several months, and she made mental health advocacy a central part of her post-Olympics Gold Over America Tour. In addition to her formal work on the matter, Simone Biles’ quotes on mental health have been shared in dozens of media outlets, and she’s spoken candidly about the importance of mental health on her social media platforms.

Lessons From Simone Biles on the Importance of Self-Care, Seeking Help and Breaking Down Stigma

Whether it’s pulling out of the Olympics or simply taking a day off work, everyone can benefit from a break to focus on their mental health. Proper diet and exercise, positive influences and healthy personal habits can also go a long way in ensuring mental well-being.

One of the most enduring and unfortunate stigmas surrounding mental health is that people who struggle with it are inferior or less capable than others who don’t. This is untrue, and there’s no shame in getting the help you need. Reaching out to qualified mental health practitioners is a great step toward restoring balance and living a healthier life.

Take Steps to Get Help

Not everyone knows what it’s like to pull off a triple backflip and receive a 10 from the judges. However, nearly everyone can identify with Simone’s mental health struggles. Her willingness to speak up has encouraged countless others to take steps to improve their mental well-being.

Restore Mental Health provides services to individuals who need assistance managing their mental health. You can receive comprehensive support and treatment as you work toward getting back to a healthier version of yourself. Contact Restore to connect with mental health professionals ready to serve you.