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Why I Admire Simone Biles as Someone With Autism and Mental Health Challenges

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As someone who didn’t always put their mental health first, having people like Simone speak up about her struggles makes a world of difference.

Simone Biles, a gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast, left the women’s gymnastics final at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Her team cited a “medical injury” before in a press conference indicating that it was over her mental health. However, Team USA would still go on to win silver in the final.

When I was a kid growing up on the autism spectrum, I saw a therapist for a short time due to my challenging behaviors. Being bullied in school, I would avoid mentioning this as getting help and seeking good mental health was often labeled as being “crazy” and “weird.” Some of my mental health challenges were because I didn’t speak in complete sentences till I was 7. I would feel a wide range of emotions but not be able to communicate my needs. As an adult, I have a job as a public speaker and speak openly about mental health.

The best thing I could ever do to help with these issues was to put my mental health first and not be afraid to talk about it.

Being a big NBA fan, I applauded basketball player Kevin Love for addressing his mental health issues. In addition, superstar tennis player Naomi Osaka indicated mental health issues before leaving a tournament earlier in 2021. While I admire all of their bravery, in Simone Biles’s scenario, in the final of an Olympics, which very well could be one of her last, putting her mental health first was incredible.

The fact is, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year. Simone, I appreciate you speaking up at this moment. I hope you will inspire more people who struggle with their mental health not to be afraid to make it a priority. As a society, let’s have more significant conversations about this crucial topic.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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Originally published: July 30, 2021
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