Simone Biles vs Mental Health Stigma

By Melanie Brosnan, LCPC, and Aida Kaewwilai, LPC

Self-Care and Anxiety.

Feeling torn between choosing success or your mental health?

That is the question many are struggling to answer today, even Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles.  The idea of mental health has evolved moving from the notion that it only applies to severe mental illness to now viewing it on many different spectrums. As people are learning about mental health, they begin to battle to the stigma that stands in the way of accepting and prioritizing it.

Prioritizing Mental Health

Witnessing Simone Biles prioritize her mental health over participating in the Olympics is something most of us are not used to seeing.  How could it be that the action of stepping away from something that could be detrimental to one’s health is so scrutinized and criticized? In the days following Simone’s decision to withdraw from her competition, she has received many words of encouragement and support but also questions about why she made the decision she did. 

We believe the questions and criticism come from a place of not understanding the importance of taking care of your mental health. Since mental health has been a taboo topic for many years, it has been difficult to break the stigma. However, doctors, therapists, teachers, employers, legislators, public figures and now athletes are beginning to share their personal accounts. Their personal stories are normalizing talking about and caring for one’s mental health. 

SEEKING HELP can break that cycle of anxiety, making it more manageable for the individuals and their families.

Anxiety is Real and Common

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 20% of American adults struggled with an anxiety disorder over the past year and about 31% of American adults experience some type of anxiety disorder over the course of their lives. Anxiety disorders can come in many forms including social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, separation anxiety and specific phobias. 

Anxiety can be a result of both nature and nurture.  Oftentimes, anxiety is seen as a pattern in families. However, we should just not automatically conclude that anxiety is genetic. It is important to consider that anxious caregivers often have anxious children. Children naturally model after their caregivers, as they learn how to navigate life’s challenges.  Seeking help can break that cycle of anxiety, making it more manageable for the individuals and their families.


Why it is Important to Ask for Help

For those of us who experience prolonged anxiety (lasting more than six months and causing disruptions to normal life activities), ask for help and lean on supports.  Support may involve family, friends, teachers, mentors, therapists and neighbors.  Sometimes, getting another’s perspective and talking to someone provides a sense of comfort and safety. 

Asking for Help for Everyday Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal part of life when experienced occasionally. Some examples of mild anxiety can include feeling worried about starting a new job or school, becoming nervous before a test, or feeling apprehensive when traveling on a plane. Mild anxiety will come and go throughout life and can be managed through activities such as deep breathing, positive self-talk and distraction skills.

Asking for help is a part of self-care because if you do not take care of yourself, then who will?  It is important to know your limits because pushing beyond that can lead to burnout. Biles spoke up for her mental health and took the rest she needed. Instead of burning out, her mental health improved. She felt good enough to return to the Olympic Games for the final gymnastics event, the individual balance beam event, in which she captured the bronze medal.

Still feeling torn between choosing success or your mental health? We say, choosing mental health means you have already won.

Get help today.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Ammirati Counseling to ask and inquire about support services that you can receive to help with overcoming feelings of depression, loneliness, stress or anxiety.

Ammirati Counseling is a boutique counseling group with an office in Bannockburnn serving Chicago. Therapists also offer private therapy via remote online. They provide comprehensive care to children, teens, adults, couples, families, and the LGBTQ community.
Portrait of Melanie Brosnan
Melanie Brosnan
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at Ammirati Counseling

Melanie specializes in working with children ages 5 to 18, young adults, adults and families. She has specialized training in trauma, grief and loss, anxiety and mood disorders, women’s issues, adjustment and behavioral difficulties, suicidality and self injurious behaviors.

Aida Kaewwilai
Licensed Professional Counselor at Ammirati Counseling

Aida combines different therapeutic approaches in working with individuals, couples and families of many populations. She specializes in working with relational issues related to trauma, depression anxiety, grief and loss.

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at Ammirati Counseling
Terri A. Ammirati, LCPC, has 25+ years of clinical experience. She is a Certified Gottman Therapist and presents Gottman's "The Art and Science of Love" couples workshop.

Terri specializes in empowering clients to strengthen their relationships. She works with all aspects of relational distress and provides solution-focused therapy.
Terri A. Ammirati