Mental health and physical health shouldn’t be seen as two separate entities. But when it comes to sports and extraordinary athletes, many people still think they exist on two different planes.
On Tuesday, Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympics gymnastics team final for her well-being. A Team USA coach reportedly said her exit was “not injury related” but “a mental issue she is having.”
Biles later explained what happened in a press conference. “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out,” she said. “I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardise my health and well-being.”
“We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head,” she continued, noting that she didn’t want to cost the team a medal because of what was going on.
Like clockwork, toxic people on the internet weighed in on Biles’ decision. Some called her weak. Some said she let down her team. Others took issue with how Biles left, comparing it to walking out of the middle of a soccer game or the Superbowl.
Not a single person would bat an eye if Biles had to leave the Olympics because of a broken ankle. You don’t berate an athlete for getting injured on the job. There should be no line drawn between a “mental” or “physical” issue. They’re the same. They’re both health issues.
“When an athlete goes down to an injury during a game, for example, the reaction is oftentimes one of applause and support after they get up or are helped off the field. So should the support be for occasions such as this when, similarly, we want Simone Biles to return healthier and stronger than before,” said Jorge Palacios, a clinical researcher and senior digital health scientist at SilverCloud Health.