In case you missed it, Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, is making headlines at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after announcing her withdrawal from the women’s team final to focus on her mental health.
“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human too,” the 24-year-old said. “We have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
Biles, who has earned four Olympic gold medals and 19 world titles since 2013, has been widely praised for her openness in discussing the reason behind her decision, with many saying the move could go a long way to dispel stigma around mental health in sports.
Following Biles’ announcement, athletes around the world, including former Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, spoke up to support the American gymnastics star.
Mental health matters. You often can’t see the struggle and so it’s hard to understand. Gymnastics is dangerous, especially when you don’t feel clear in your mind.
I’m proud of @Simone_Biles for recognizing her limits and I wish her the best as she overcomes this challenge.
— Kyle Shewfelt (@kyleshew) July 27, 2021
In an interview with Peterborough Today, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge’s manager of community engagement and education Jack Veitch said he hopes Biles’ decision will serve as an example to other athletes.
“When we talk about stigma reduction, the research-proven, evidence-based, number-one way to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness is what we call contact-based education,” said Veitch, who also serves as mental health coach for the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes. “[This involves] people with lived experience sharing their experience with illness and their journey to recovery.”
CMHA Ontario’s Talk Today program supports elite amateur athletes across Canada with mental health awareness and suicide prevention training as well as other supports and resources. Learn more about Talk Today.