As the Olympic Games came to an end – celebrations of medals won, records broken and dreams still to be fulfilled – inspired generations to dust off running shoes, retrieve old bikes from sheds and up-cycle sports gear worn during endless Zoom sessions to engage in new and long forgotten activities.
The impressive and awe inspiring achievements by all olympians is they executed their art with such grace, brought nations to their feet in mutual admiration and applause. Now the fanfare moves on, a distant memory for some, in the clamour for the next news headline.
This would have been a unique historical games impart as its backdrop of a global pandemic the Coronavirus Games. Yet, maybe even reluctantly the issue of mental health to centre stage – in the guise of Simone Biles, representing the USA. Biles was embracing vulnerability in withdrawing from the games saying “I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardise my health and well-being”. This action by Biles gives many of her fellow olympians the courage to do the same thing, as well as the rest of society the permission to acknowledge that is if ‘Ok not to be Ok’. Rather than be labelled as mentally weak – this stigma continually persists in society and institutions – questions the popular misconceptions across the social and cultural, racial and gender divides. Why are we failing in our endeavours to accept vulnerability in each other. Surely, leaves us missing a strength of creativity which can allow healing and bring nations, a greater understanding of themselves when dealing with mental health and those issues of fear, anxiety, loss, grief and anger.
I’m reminded of the last time our collective awareness of mental health was timely interrupted/awakened as Prince Harry spoke of his own suppressed emotions after losing his mother Princes Diana. How the impact of his own emotional and mental health – led him to diverting his feelings of aggression and grief to the boxing ring – before finally coming to counselling 20 years later.
These acts of courage and embracing vulnerability by Simone Biles and Prince Harry helps to move the stigma of mental health and give comfort and encouragement for many to realise we are not alone, and seek help.