Simone Biles is not the first athlete to acknowledge how mounting pressure to perform and achieve has affected her mental health. But by stepping away from her events on the world’s biggest stage, Biles has forced the spotlight to shine on an issue that is long known to have affected elite athletes but has often been kept hidden in the shadows.
In June, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka stepped away from the French Open, one of her sport’s major events, to focus on her mental health after she was fined for not participating in press conferences. Now it’s Biles, who withdrew from the Olympic gymnastics team event and announced she will not defend her individual All-Around medal. Many other athletes are falling in line behind them in support and opening up about their own mental health issues.
“Other athletes that might have struggled with similar issues now feel like it’s OK for them to talk about it,” Ben Miller, a psychologist and president of California-based Well Being Trust told Reuters. “There’s something very powerful in that moment,”