Simon Biles and mental health awareness took center stage in 2021 when the most successful gymnast of all time decided to excuse herself from the Olympics.
Biles has a whopping total of 32 World Championship and Olympic medals tally. She played at the Olympic level for the first time in 2016 at the Summer Games and won five medals. However, the opinions and resentment Biles faces after her withdrawal due to a condition called the twisties taught us why we still don’t understand the importance of mental health.
While twisties might sound like a cute word, it is a frightening phenomenon.
The twisties are a sensation that gymnasts develop. This condition causes them to lose spatial awareness during their performances. It also makes the mind feel disconnected from the rest of the body. High pressure or fear are often the triggers for the condition.
For a technically advanced gymnast like Biles, a second of brain imbalance might mean fatal consequences. When she realized that she couldn’t hurt herself, Biles quit. She chose to put her mental and physical health first and set an example for the rest of the world.
Here’s what we can learn from this Simon Biles and mental health awareness incident:
1. You can be successful while having a mental health problem
Simon Biles has always been open about her struggles with mental health issues. When her confidential diagnosis reports regarding attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were released online, she took a stand for herself. Simon tweeted that she was not afraid to accept her diagnosis in front of the world.
Apart from this, Biles also suffered from bullying in her childhood. However, she overcame all her issues and became a world-class athlete. She showed the world that having a mental health issue does not render one’s abilities useless. Her courage to fight for her dreams in the face of adversity might help give hope to others.
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2. It’s OK to say ‘no.’
While the world pressurized Biles to continue playing, she chose to resist. Later she admitted to feeling like she had the world’s weight on her shoulders while making the decision. However, her strong will and resolve to put her mental health first helped her make the right decision.
While we might not feel the pressure of an Olympic winner every day, sometimes we give in to the pressure that others put on us. Biles teaches us that it is okay to say no. It is okay to prioritize ourselves over other things. It does not render you selfish. In fact, we owe it to ourselves.
3. A stigma regarding mental illnesses still exists
If there is one thing this Simon Biles and mental health issue taught us was that the stigma around mental health issues exists. There exists a wide discrepancy between how people treat physical and mental illnesses.
The backlash that followed Biles’ decision to quit is a testament to how much we need to work on as a society. People labeled her as a ‘quitter’ without fully understanding what she was going through. This shows how easily the society undermines mental health and its importance.
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Simon Biles taught us that mental health is also health and needs to be prioritized just as much as physical health. Her courage and vulnerability need to be celebrated. She has taught the world how the goalpost is never perfection; it’s wellness and good health.
To follow in her footsteps, we need to prioritize self-care and self-preservation. Are you confused about how to achieve this? To find out how you can practice self-care at home easily, click here.
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