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Tokyo Olympics: Simone Biles was very brave to tell the truth and explain her Olympics withdrawal

Simone Biles was extremely BRAVE to explain her Olympics withdrawals… her mental health revelations are getting people talking and shaking up the unwanted stigma around it, insists leading sports psychologist

I think Simone was very brave to tell the truth of her experience. Hopefully it will highlight the importance of mental well-being.

Athletes are focused mainly on their physical performance and so if anything untoward happened to them physically, that would be seen as potentially more acceptable for people to understand.

It may take some people longer to get their heads around it, to exactly understand what is going on with her. But the fact she’s explained why she pulled out gets people talking about it and that’s the main thing for mental awareness.

USA athlete Simone Biles was very brave to tell the truth over her Olympics withdrawals

Opening up about mental health is more accepted now, but I don’t think it’s totally accepted. I think a problem we have with the stigma is that if someone is depressed, it’s that old fashioned thing of, ‘Oh shake it off’.

Because of that stigma, athletes may not advertise that they seek mental or emotional well-being professionals, but from my experience there are a lot who do. 

I’ve worked with a few athletes who don’t speak about it, but I’ve had a couple of athletes tell other athletes about working with me.

Speaking out will highlight the importance of mental health and will get others talking

Speaking out will highlight the importance of mental health and will get others talking 

The most important thing is that she took care of herself – it wasn’t about anybody else, it was about her making sure that she’s OK. 

If she didn’t feel in the right mental place, of course there’s an expectation that you won’t perform as well, but she could also have risked injury if she had performed. 

If we feel stressed out, it affects our tissues in our muscles – so it was really a message about taking care of ourselves.

Nicola Vanlint is a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy accredited counsellor. 

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