After Biles bows out over mental health, gymnasts say they’ve ‘been waiting for this culture change’

Health

FREDERICK, Colo. (KDVR) — After U.S. gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition at the Tokyo Olympics, she has gotten worldwide praise for recognizing that she was not mentally fit enough to continue to compete.

While there has been criticism, mental health experts say Biles did the right thing for herself and her team by putting her mental health first.

Treating mental issues like physical ones

“I think the biggest message is no matter how successful, how well prepared you are, we all have our bad days,” Dr. Anat Geva, a psychiatrist with HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, told FOX31.

According to Geva, mental health issues among athletes need to be taken as seriously as a physical injury, like pulling a muscle or breaking a bone.

“She is showing us that it’s not only okay, it’s really necessary to stand up for yourself,” Geva said.

Geva and others are now hoping Biles will serve as an inspiration to empower others who are struggling.

“If people with so much visibility and massive achievements admit to it, then the rest of us humans can do that as well,” Geva said.

‘Waiting for this culture change’

“For more people to know they can say, ‘You know, I’m just not mentally there, I probably shouldn’t do this right now,’ is a gift,” Kassie Haag said.

Haag owns and operates Athletic Adventures, a gymnastics gym in Frederick that’s focused on changing the culture in the sport.

“Gymnastics is a sport that not only teaches perfection but demands it,” Haag said. “I want our girls to learn to fail …We have to fail in order to succeed.”

Haag said Biles is setting an example of what bravery and mental strength looks like at the elite level.

“The choice that Simone had today — and like, I’m quite literally getting the chills about it, because my community has been waiting for this culture change for a very long time. And to see it play out on the Olympic stage, it’s not disappointing. It’s rewarding,” Haag said.

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