• Monday, June 24, 2024
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It’s okay not to be okay, please speak out!


Simone Biles made the decision not to participate in the on-going Olympics with her team and individual all-around competitions to attend to her mental health. This was another wakeup call on the need to give priority to our mental health and to talk about it.

No matter how highly placed you are or not, everyone needs to keep a check on their mental health and guard it jealously.

For her decision, mental health was in the spotlight and she isn’t the only one going through it, even at the Olympics.

Interestingly, she had worked with the International Gymnastics Federation’s doctor, Team USA’s doctor, including a sports Psychologist to help ascertain if her mental and physical state was okay to participate in the competition.

Biles was opened to receive help. Not everyone knows they are experiencing mental health issues, not everyone admits they can have mental health issues, not to talk of seeking help.

When I say some do not know, they actually don’t. You find people eating or sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing from others and normal activities, decrease in vibe, don’t care, aches and pains that can’t be explained, disheartened, edgy, bothered, afraid, yelling, indulging excessively and many more.

Read Also: The mental health awareness week

For Simone, at some point, she wanted to be optimistic about participating actively at the Olympics, because she went for practice, but she got lost in the air and later crashed. She knew that it was not the right thing to do, she knew she could not actively participate, so she opted out.

There are times when your mental health is trying to get the best of you, you honestly may not want to give in however, if it urgently calls for your attention, it cannot be ignored.

It is beyond shaking it off and acting tough, which is what people in sports are made to believe. The rationale for participating in any sport activity is to win, so they are taught to be tough, focused and behave strong. My question is, “should that be all? Can their mental health be given same intensity of motivation as their physical expectations?”

I know there are sports psychologists, in the case of Simone, aside speaking to one, she also spoke with International Gymnastics Federation’s doctor and Team USA’s doctor, however, nobody completely understands you like you.

Fortunately for Biles, in the midst of all the nay sayers who felt angry about her withdrawal, mental health advocates like Naomi Osaka, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Phelps (who revealed he contemplated suicide after the 2012 Olympics while deep in depression), brought her succor with their soothing words of encouragement.

“I am going back home in one piece, which I was a little bit nervous about. It’s not how I wanted it to go, but I think we’ve opened bigger doors and bigger conversations” Biles said, adding that “We’re not just athletes or entertainment, we’re human too, and we have real emotions. Sometimes, they don’t realise that we have things going on behind the scenes that affect us whenever we go out and compete.” Simone stated.

“We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect. So yes, it is OK not to be OK.” Said Phelps.

Those words are true. Male or female, strong or weak, winner or loser, bold or shy, everyone at a point in their lives were not okay and it is okay to feel so…completely ok. It shows you are human. You just have to take it a step further by seeking for help.

No one is too smart to seek help, if you need it, ask for it and since the Olympics is on, let me focus on participants by saying, several of them have gone through mental health issues, and some are currently going through their own share.

For instance, Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin left training camp in January to sort his mind out. He said it was very difficult for him to know how to find his way as ‘Tom Dumoulin the cyclist’. He understood the need to take time out and he did.

He got back and began training again in May. At the Olympics, he came second and won a silver medal in the men’s individual time trials.

Simone Biles

Imagine what would have happened to him if he did not take time out once he observed he needed it. ‘Luckily’ for him, he did not begin to experience his own mental health challenges at the Olympics, so he could quickly nip it in the bud.

Simone’s case occurred at the Olympics. Different strokes for different folks. We are not in control of when it happens but we can control how it affects us. We react and respond to mental health issues differently, this must be respected.

How about Naomi Osaka? She opted out from the French Open, she did not go to Wimbledon and after leaving Tokyo, she stated that the Olympic cauldron was a bit too much to handle.

The list goes on. Yes! they are famous, Yes! They are winners, Yes! They are ‘fighters’, Yes! They love victory and Yes! They are human too…most importantly!

Let me share with you this true story. Bisi had been critically ill. She shared it with Seyi (her friend) who she felt would understand. Rather than listen to what she was saying to her, Seyi was more bothered about Bisi not checking up on her rather than finding out why Bisi did not check up on her.

The more she tried to explain, the more complex it became. Knowing that her state of health did not need such energy, she had to cut off temporarily from Seyi. She had too much to think about in her state as she struggled for her life than engage in unproductive arguments that worsened her situation.

Sometimes, the truth is that you need space. You need space for your sanity and you need space to heal. When you know that time has come, get that space so you can stay sane.

We must also be mindful of how we jump into matters without finding out the facts. It was later many realised Simone lost her aunt while at the Olympics. “That was something I wasn’t expecting to happen at the Olympic games.” She told CNN.

“At the end of the day, you have to be a little bit more mindful of what you say online,” she said to journalists, “because you have no idea of what these athletes are going through as well as in their sports.” Simone insisted.

One of the reasons I love Dr. Maymunah Kadiri, The Celebrity Shrink and multiple award winning Neuro-Psychiatrist & mental health advocate, is that she will readily tell you that no one has immunity against mental health, and I concur completely.

According to MentalHealth.gov, Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Hmmm…mental health in childhood and adolescence, story for another day!