Olympians recognize mental health as important as physical health

By Regence
July 28, 2021
Simone Biles

Main Photo: Simone Biles via AP News, source: Gregory Bull/Associated Press

As athletes compete at the top of their game during these summer Olympics, no doubt the pressure is immense. Mental health has become a common headline recently, with many professional athletes sharing their stories of struggle.

Just this week, Simone Biles, Greatest of All Time (GOAT) of gymnastics, stepped out of competition to focus on her mental health. In a press conference she said, “…I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. We have to protect our body and our mind.” Biles’ decision followed that of Naomi Osaka, professional tennis player, who bowed out of the French Open, choosing to be mindful of her mental health, because of the stress she felt during press conferences.

“It’s important to recognize that mental health is just like any other health issue that needs to be attended to when you’re not feeling well,” said Dr. Hossam Mahmoud, behavioral health medical director at Regence. “When public figures like professional athletes share what they’re going through, it helps to break down the stigma and fear associated with seeking help.”

U.S. Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic medalist with 23 golds, three silvers and two bronze medals over five different summer games was one of the first to open up about his depression, alcohol, substance misuse and suicidal thoughts. The swimmer continues to be an advocate for mental health awareness and produced an HBO documentary, The Weight of Gold, which highlights the mental health challenges athletes face.

Mental health care is an essential part of care, and 1 in 5 people in the U.S. experience a mental health illness in any given year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The pandemic has increased stress and uncertainty, leading many to need extra support.

Whether you need occasional emotional support or ongoing mental health care, Regence has a variety of programs to prevent, identify and treat mental health and substance use disorders. Regence members who want to understand what is available under their health plan can log into their account on regence.com, or call us for help finding the right behavioral health resources.