Olympic Spotlight Shifts to Mental Health

The most notable result of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, despite all the pageantry and competition is that mental well-being is front and center. By making their mental health a priority, Olympians are encouraging the rest of the world. GoodTherapy can help. 

Bold Steps for Self-Care

Simone Biles (and Naomi Osaka) have opened up about their mental health issues and the physical consequences.

The world was shocked when Simone Biles, widely believed to be the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team competition. Her words will be remembered long after Olympic fever has subsided. “I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.” She added, “It just sucks when you are fighting with your own head.”

Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka faced fines and disqualification threats just last month when she skipped a French Open press conference because she was “feeling vulnerable and anxious and thought it was better to exercise self-care.” After being chosen to light the Olympic cauldron, making her the face of the Tokyo Olympics, she lost her Olympic bid in the third round with the eyes of the world upon her. As she said, “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this.” 

Analysts and pundits are likely to continue to debate their actions. Ultimately, what Biles and Osaka did was say it should be OK to put yourself first – as athletes, as humans. Now, it’s up to us to make sure that it is. 

Empowered People Empower Others

Biles actually credits Osaka as having inspired her to take care of her mental health. We thank both of them for their openness and honesty — for advocating for their own needs and stepping back for self-care, for choosing not to jeopardize their health and well-being.

The public’s reaction to their statements and actions will make or break where we go from here. Prioritizing mental health is not only for athletes. Everyone feels the pressure to perform and to ignore our feelings in order to do the best job for the team. We should allow each other — and ourselves — to acknowledge thoughts, pause for self-care, and seek help when we need it. This should be culturally acceptable and even praised

Athletes: Did we add a search filter to allow you to find therapists who understand your profession and its struggles. You can find “Professional Sports” under “Industries and Communities Served” to the left of your therapist search results.

Normalize the pursuit of mental health

Standing up for ourselves – taking a break, seeking help, saying no, getting support – should be acceptable behavior for anyone, whether that’s an Olympic athlete, a new mom, a college student, or a busy employee. So many of us are told to “fake it til you make it,” or “grit your teeth through it,” but that doesn’t work, and it takes away from healthier outcomes that mental wellness brings. 

At GoodTherapy, we’re committed to providing access to information and treatment that can help people improve their mental and emotional health. We want to make it easier for people to make the most of these resources. 

Biles and Osaka both bring out a topic that was once taboo, but is now much more accepted and embraced. No matter the outcome of the Olympic games, these heroes share a legacy at #Tokyo2020 by saying it’s OK to put yourself first. In many ways, they’ve moved the spotlight off the medals and onto mental health. They are open to honest conversations and empower those who seek therapy. They’ve proven that true success is not about podiums, medals, or meeting the expectations of others.

Self-care is something we believe is worth celebrating. We are grateful to Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles for showing us the way.

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