Mental health expert weighs in on Simone Biles’ withdrawal from some Olympic events

Buckley Report

(WGHP) — For years, it was the thing no one seemed to want to talk about: mental health.

To admit you had a problem was to admit weakness, in the minds of many.

“Any kind of mental issues that you may be dealing with are not a sign of weakness – they are not,” said Jaren Doby, a licensed mental health counselor with Novant Health. But he admits, “These subjects are not always very easy to talk about and they hit home for people.”

Never did that seem more apparent than when American gymnast Simone Biles chose not to compete in some events at the Olympics in Tokyo. She had endured competitions with broken bones and even sexual abuse by a doctor whom she trusted and fought through all of that to be the best her sport had ever seen. So why, many people thought, couldn’t she fight through this? After all, she seemed to be smiling in all the photos and videos we were seeing from Tokyo.

“A photo can only tell you a partial bit of information about what a person may be experiencing,” Doby said. “So, for her to be able to trust herself, be able to realize that, ‘You know what? I’m in a position that I’m not able to serve myself, my team, or even my country in the way that I desire to be able to do so, at the top level,’ to be able to take a step back from that is actually a very honorable thing to do.”

Doby realizes that the move may damage Biles’ reputation in some circles.

“In the world of professional athletes, you’re able to play through physical injuries, highly encouraged, right? It shows toughness and things of that nature,” Doby said. “But no one ever speaks about playing through mental health issues. Why? Because the stigma surrounding mental health very much so is that of negativity, related to weakness, not being mentally strong.”

But that leaves the question of where Biles goes from here.

“Well, the first thing that she needed to do is exactly what she did, is to be mindful and be honest with herself about where it is that she is at this particular time,” Doby said. “And then, being able to explore about what she is willing or is able to do next. If she does feel like being able to compete, moving forward, is in her best interest then she’ll do that. But, if not, I strongly encourage her to be able to make sure that she utilizes the supports that are around her that are positive, the coping skills that she does have, naturally, that work best for her. And that, if these are not enough, that she seek professional help.”

See more on this in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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