Simone Biles Withdrew


Your mental health is more valuable than your achievements.
By Ruth Mendelson, MSW, LCSW

Photo by Felix Mittermeier from Pexels

What does it mean to be strong?

You might say: Tough. Gritty. Motivated. Dedicated. Persistent. Powerful. Heroic. Inspirational. Protective. Successful. A winner. The greatest. Number 1. Brave. Courageous.

Are these words that you would associate with a champion? A champion Olympic Gold Medalist? YES!

What about a champion for Mental Health Care? YES! I agree. Let me take some time to explain to you where I see the crossover.

Simone Biles took the value of placing the necessity of mental health care above all else in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games to a whole new level.  This is called Self-Care. The World Health Organization defines self-care as: “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”

The ripple effect of what Simone Biles did was heard and felt across the globe. From everything to applause, accolades, support from celebrities, memes (a sign in 2021 that you made an indelible impact), negativity, disappointment, and critique, a lot of people had something to say.  Regardless of where you stand in your opinion or if you even have one on that matter, let’s acknowledge that this is an important moment in time. Why?

It is okay not to be okay

Repeat after me: “It is okay not to be okay.” And sometimes, the bravest, most courageous thing a person can do is to say they need to take a break, step away, and prioritize their mental health.

A decision like this that takes strength and fortitude does not always get to the world stage. In the case of Simone Biles withdrawing from some Olympic events, it did. And it is a big deal because:

    • It recognizes the role mental health plays in performance
    • It demonstrates that mental health care should and can be prioritize


  • And perhaps most significantly — it fuels the fight to destigmatize mental health concerns and treatment


When someone like Simone Biles removes herself from an Olympic competition citing mental health needs, a signal is given, a bell is rung. People may just feel more comfortable asking themselves, “what am I doing to prioritize my mental health needs?” People with the status and footprint of Simone Biles, coming forward and saying “I am not able to do X right now because I need to put my well being first” have the power to change the landscape and trajectory for many.

So many people look up to celebrities and athletes. They pay attention to what celebrities and athletes do and say. They are influential — Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka, and they are also human. These three elite athletes in particular have all shared their struggles with mental health issues. They have paved the way in showing us all that being a world class athlete and having extraordinary exceptional physical strength, endurance, and talent does not make you immune from mental health suffering. In fact, they are showing just how strong they are by admitting they need support and getting it.

Being in the state of mind where a person feels confident, focused, and assured impacts their performance. Recognizing the significance of this and prioritizing treatment can be life changing and perhaps even life saving work.

Tough. Gritty. Motivated. Dedicated. Persistent. Powerful. Heroic. Inspirational. Protective. Successful. A winner. The greatest. Number 1. Brave. Courageous.

These words are being repeated from the opening of this article. This is being done to highlight the crossover between the qualities needed to be successful as a champion athlete and as a champion for your wellbeing and mental health needs. There is an intersection and connection between the two, and we are living in a time where the above mentioned athletes are practicing self care.

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

If you are struggling to prioritize your mental health concerns and well being, please reach out.  If you want to learn more about self care, a licensed therapist or counselor can support you with your goals.


Ruth enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dog.  She loves to cook, spend time outdoors and go to the beach (even when it’s cold outside).

Check out Ruth’s professional bio here!

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Next Steps & Resources

  • Are you ready to take your first step? Reach out to us.
  • Do you feel that you or your child or teen may benefit from counseling during this time? Take the first step.
  • Interested in online counseling? Learn more.
  • Learn more about the way these athletes are changing the landscape and conversation here.