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Local health workers back Biles’ decision to focus on mental health

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Local behavioral health workers are backing Simone Biles’ decision to back out of gymnastic competition at the Olympics.

Olympic athletes are no exceptions when it comes to trials and tribulation as we’ve seen with Simone Biles who said her mental health was the reason for leaving competition. Biles cited her mental health as the reason she removed herself from the USA gymnastics team on Tuesday.

“We’re kind of at the precipice of realizing that you can only train the physicality so far before the mental side has a huge impact,” said Washburn Assistant Athletic Director and former soccer athlete at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Britt Lauritsen. “You’re seeing elite-level athletes knowing and understanding that impact and I think that’s a really good thing for us.”

It’s a hot-button topic now, Lauritsen said, but handling mental health has been around forever. She believes people are finding resources and having their voices be heard better now with social media.

“You kind of talked through your feelings a little but it was very much a suck-it-up type of scenario and now I think the emotional IQ of our society has increased, I think the emotional IQ of our coaches has increased,” she said.

Stormont Vail Health Licensed Behavioral Therapist Marcy Scott said stability with family, friends, and coaches is just as important as stability on the mat and bars.

“When those aspects aren’t there, especially family and close friends, you’re not able to fully be yourself at times,” she said.

Scott, a former softball player at Washburn herself, said -- first things first, know their signs and symptoms when experiencing stress and anxiety.

“With athletes, it can be stressful in the performance so things you want to look for, and coaches need to be able to identify these things too or family members, is whether it’s like cognitive and they’re having trouble with their memory or they can’t focus,” she said.

Scott believes Biles was brave for giving people a chance to speak up.

“These things do happen and they happen to her, an Olympic gold medalist. If it can happen to her, some of the things that I might be feeling or another adult might be feeling, those things happen, just to let you know it’s okay to take a break and ask for help,” said Scott.

Valeo: 785-233-1730 / https://www.valeotopeka.org/

Washburn Behavioral Health Services: https://www.washburn.edu/student-life/services/counseling/

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