Biles ‘coming out’ opens discussions about mental health care

Sports Illustrated

Counsellors and spiritual directors at US Catholic colleges and ministries are supporting gymnast Simone Biles to prioritise her mental health

The counsellors and spiritual directors told CNS her decision has opened up a broader and much-needed discussion about the importance of mental health care.

“Even if we aren’t carrying around the pressure of performing as one of the greatest athletes of all time, we are all susceptible to the undercurrents in our culture that preach grit, grind and pushing through,” wrote Zac Davis, associate editor of America magazine.

Biles’ decision put her in a “new public role of spiritual director” by showing that “impulses to be the best do not need to rule over our lives,” he added.

Other high-profile athletes also have spoken about mental health.

Biles, a Catholic, has spoken of her dad’s constant reminder not to waste God’s gift of her talent and to use it to the best of her ability.

“In some ways (these athletes) are ‘coming out’ to educate those who work with them” — parents, coaches and administrators — that mental health is an issue that needs attention, a university counsellor commented.

“I think athletes in our society experience a lot of pressure and are expected to be really tough — and to be almost immune to weakness and struggle — and when they are in pain to play through it.

“That certainly has led to the significant stigma around seeking help for mental health issues,” he told CNS.

“When we see professional athletes, especially those we revere in so many ways, acknowledge they too have a mental health issue and it’s important to get help for it and learn to manage it, that really gives everyone else more permission to do the same.”

Another academic says the spotlight on mental health in sports should be a “good gut check” even at the youth level in Catholic schools and programs.

“The emphasis on winning and coaches’ demands can often drown out other voices in kids’ lives, he says.

Young adults have faced spiritual and mental challenges this past year when their “access to normal spaces, communities and routines was disrupted,” a counsellor pointed out.

Biles, who is Catholic, has spoken of her dad’s constant reminder not to waste God’s gift of her talent and to use it to the best of her ability.

She tweeted on July 29: “The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”

Responding to her tweet on social media, Catholic Charities USA thanked Biles for taking care of her mental health.

A religious sister who is also a mental health counsellor applauded Biles’ decision, saying people’s strength often comes from recognizing their weaknesses.

She says Biles “made a wise decision” praised her for staying and supporting her teammates.


Additional reading

News category: Top Story, World.

Tags: ,