Simone Biles is Speaking Up on Mental Health
Athletes are now using their platforms to create positive change
Setting An Example at the Olympics
On Tuesday, June 27th, 2021, U.S Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles made the decision to take herself out of the team finals at the 2020 Summer Games after nearly injuring herself during the vault prior to the finale. Her choice to withdraw ultimately cost Team USA a gold medal as they settled for silver without her dominance and responses from fans and media have certainly varied in support.
Simone was struggling with her mental well-being heading into the competition after the qualifying round. Her status as the GOAT, led to unreasonable expectations at this year’s Summer Games and as a result, the built up stress took a toll on her mental state.
Every human being struggles with their mental health at times during their lives, including professional athletes. Simone has nothing to be ashamed of, and better yet should be applauded for her actions. Simone very bravely spoke out about her personal challenges with mental health following the competition. She set an example as a leader across not only America but the world. The Olympics as a whole is one of the most stressful events an athlete can endure, especially an individual athlete. Professional athlete Coach and Mentor Todd Herman, put out a social media post stating he had 56 messages from athletes and coaches seeking help at this year’s Olympics. The amount of pressure that is put on these Olympic level athletes is something most people will never understand. In addition, people on social media have no right to criticize Simone, especially considering none of them could ever do what she does as a gymnast and leader.
Mental Health Awareness Spreading Across The Sports World
This type of pressure on athletes goes beyond the Olympic Village, as today you see many athletes from other major sports speaking out about the pressure they receive and their experiences with mental health. Kevin Love was a pioneer in the NBA when he first spoke out in a Players’ Tribune article about a panic attack he suffered during halftime while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018. It is an extremely challenging and nerve-racking event for an athlete of this stature to come out and speak about such sensitive issues. Love has helped pave the way for many other professional athletes including NHL goalie Robert Lehner, who in a recent essay spoke up about his struggles with addiction and its effect on his mental well-being. Another athlete from the NHL, Riley Sheahan, has bravely opened up about his experiences with depression and anxiety that began during his childhood and have followed him throughout his career.
“I fully support the move Simone made as it’s most important to protect your mental well-being in any situation”, says Riley. “It’s leaders like her who have inspired me to be more outspoken about my past and use my platform as a professional athlete to help more people feel more comfortable about things they are dealing with internally.”
I sit as Riley’s brand manager at TorchPro, and as part of his journey to help spread awareness for mental health, we decided to launch a podcast together that allows people from all over the world to speak their minds.
Riley Sheahan’s “Speak Your Mind” Podcast
The “Speak Your Mind” podcast is a platform aimed at helping to normalize conversations around mental health. As mentioned, Riley has dealt with issues in the realm of mental health since his childhood and wants to now share his experiences to help people feel more comfortable about things they are dealing with internally. The podcast will have several guests from all different backgrounds to talk about their experiences.
“I hope that “Speak Your Mind” will initiate the conversation with individuals to discuss their inner battles with mental health and create a space for normalizing these types of open interactions,” says Riley. “It doesn’t matter who you are, challenging times are inevitable, and it is important to equip yourself with the proper tools to fight those hard times. Personally, my experience with mental health has been a roller coaster ride, but I have learned so many valuable lessons that create consistency and comfort especially when life throws you a curveball.”
The first episode of the podcast will launch on Monday, August 2nd on all major podcast platforms and will feature myself talking with Riley about his past. Following episode 1, we will have bi-weekly episodes with guests from around the world who are ready to speak up and share their experiences, battles, and successes with mental health.
While there will always be fans who react poorly to athletes such as Riley and Simone speaking up about their mental health and doing what they feel is best for their own personal well-being, they are paving the way for a brighter future for our next generation.
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