Experts say Simone Byers’ withdrawal from the Olympics may “normalize” the mental health conversation
Experts said that American Olympic gymnast Simone Byers decided to withdraw from the women’s team finals to take care of her mental health, which may be of great help in eliminating the stigma in sports.
Katie Kamkar, a clinical psychologist at the Toronto Center for Addiction and Mental Health, told CBC Sports on Tuesday: “In the sports world, physical and mental health has always been emphasized.” “This will further perpetuate a silent pain and self-isolation.
“So the more we can have a very supportive and compassionate conversation, just like dealing with physical health issues, the more we can normalize the conversation.”
Byers is a gymnastics icon. She has won four Olympic gold medals and 19 world championship titles, but withdrew from Tuesday’s final after a horse vault.
“I must pay attention to my mental health,” the 24-year-old said after the event. “I just think that mental health is now more common in sports.
“We must protect our minds and our bodies, not just go there and do what the world wants us to do.”
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Taslim Alani-Verjee, a clinical psychologist, director and founder of the Silm Mental Health Center in Toronto, praised Biles for putting her well-being first.
“I think she can have the courage and insight to say that she can’t do it, or that it’s not in her best interest to do so, and it’s incredible that she is allowed to be in the first place. For this,” Alani -Verjee told CBC Sports.
The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee won the gold medal, while Byers’ American teammate won the silver medal. Britain won the bronze medal.
Stigma affects athletes’ careers
Byers posted on social media on Monday that she sometimes felt that she was carrying the burden of the world on her shoulders.
Kamkar is also an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He said that the stressors faced by athletes, in addition to the daily problems that people deal with, are often not appreciated by the audience.
She pointed out that due to a strong focus on education and dialogue, the stigma of mental health in sports has declined over the years, but there is still room for improvement.
“Of course, further improvements are needed, but we also know that there is still a stigma related to mental illness and health issues in the sports world,” said Kamkar, a doctor at the 2017 Toronto Invictus Games. She works closely with service personnel and veterans.
Alani-Verjee added that this stigma can have a real impact on athletes. “When a person shares their mental health issues, the stigma affects their recruitment methods, training methods, and their chances of being allowed to participate,” she said.
“This affects the audience’s perception of them, and it also affects sponsorship-unfortunately, because mental health and mental illness are still seen as fragility, weakness, and lack of willpower, for athletes, this may accomplish or ruin the career. career.”
Participation in other activities to be determined
Byers plans to defend her Olympic champion in Thursday’s all-around final. She also qualified for the finals of all four events in the late Olympics, but it remains to be seen whether she will participate.
She told reporters that she would “once a day” before deciding what to do.
Alani-Verjee said that Biles decided to take care of his own interests first, which may allow other athletes to express their needs, and if this is best for them, they need to withdraw from the competition.
“I think this sets an incredible precedent for how athletes should think about themselves and their performance, and how we should treat athletes and humanize their experiences,” she said.