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Olympics brings mental health matters to the podium

Simone Biles has helped to make mental health issues in sport more mainstream. Where next for sports?

Beijing accused US politicians of slandering China over calls for sponsors to shun the 2022 Winter Games. — Photo: © AFP

Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the Olympic games, citing mental health concerns, made international headlines (for example, as with The New York Times). This comes at the heels of Naomi Osaka’s recent decision to prioritize mental wellness above competition during the French Open tennis grand slam.

“Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions,” Osaka said in relation her much publicized withdrawal.

The physical impacts of sport participation have been well documented; however, there is comparatively less research on the mental health and psychological wellbeing of athletes.

These issues highlight the importance of mental health in society. The matter has been picked up by Faye Sahai, Managing Director at Telosity by Vinaj Ventures. This is a fund that supports youth mental health and wellbeing.

Sahai tells Digital Journal: “Simone Biles withdrawing from the Olympics has created a powerful moment for mental health awareness around the globe. She is the second prominent athlete – following Naomi Osaka – to do so this year.”

Sahai sees the move as positive, noting: “Kudos to Simone for raising awareness for mental health and helping to normalize the conversation. As a society, we need to praise Simone for her strength because it takes a very strong human being to step into the spotlight on a global stage to make such a bold statement.”

Sahai hopes that this recent mental health matter will help to raise awareness of the issue and give younger people, in particular, more encouragement to raise issues should they be affected.

Sahai  says: “Simone’s decision reveals both strength and bravery – and her battle resonates with young people everywhere. As mental health concerns continue to rise, particularly among adolescents, VC-funding in the mental health space has grown exponentially to provide solutions.”

Such solutions can help to develop strategies that should address all contributors to mental health symptoms and consider biopsychosocial factors relevant to athletes to maximise benefit and minimise harm.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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