Prioritising your mental Health is not a weakness, it is a strength.

As many people will have read, Simone Biles, a four times Gold Medal Winner for the U.S. Gymnastics team has withdrawn from some of her events at this year’s Olympic Games in order to concentrate on her mental health.

This is of course a huge disappointment, not only for the American team and its supporters but also for the Games as a whole, but what a brave decision it was!

Prioritising her mental well-being before the expectations of others shows just how seriously not only Simone Biles views this element of her health, but also how her team and coaches recognise that to perform at the level she is capable of she needs to be healthy both physically AND mentally.

An important show of support for an athlete who in the past has been badly let down by one of her former coaches.

This is I believe a strong lesson for us all.

Far too often mental health is disregarded when we think about our own well-being, or that of others, and far too often it is seen as a sign of weakness when someone raises it as an issue, a fact borne out by the ridiculous musings of a certain ‘journalist’ and former breakfast TV host who today questioned Simone’s place as a role model because she dared to raise and address it.

Mental Health should not be belittled and the opportunity to use Simone’s actions, and those of other athletes such as Tennis Player Naomi Osaka who withdrew from a Grand Slam Tournament for similar reasons, to highlight its importance and remove any lingering sense of shame should be taken and celebrated.

I wonder how the British Public would have reacted if this had been one of our athletes, would it have been with empathy or condemnation?

I suspect it would have been a bit of both, but as ever those who condemn would shout the loudest. Perhaps that is another lesson we should learn that those of us who empathise need to shout just as loudly, in order to drown out the nonsense.

I wonder too whether we would have seen more racist or misogynistic comments had Simone been a British Athlete, sadly I think we would.

Sport and Physical Activity have the power to inspire and motivate, so let us applaud Simone’s actions, wish her well for the future (and hopefully the rest of the Olympics) and shout loudly that it is ok not to be ok.

David Watson CEO.

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