With the increased observance, advocacy, and awareness regarding mental health in the past couple of years, many individuals have been able to express comfort and confidence in being able to come forth and discuss the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms that they face, manage and work to overcome on a daily basis. Throughout this disclosure process, many individuals experience a sensation of empowerment, self-understanding, and an increased prioritization of one’s own mental health needs. The more recent experiences and conversations that have occurred at the Tokyo Olympics illustrates the absolute realization that at the end of the day we are just people on a flying rock trying to figure it out one day at a time.
Both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, celebrated and decorated athletes in the national and international spheres, have opened the discussion of mental health difficulties in both general and personal expressions. Both athletes cited and spoke about the importance of mental health, their own internalized experiences, and how not being cognizant or caring of one’s health can impact an individual’s physical well-being, and athletic execution. By opening up the topic of mental health on a grand platform, Naomi and Simone clearly articulated that it should be completely okay to prioritize oneself as a person. Whether you’re an Olympic athlete, a chef, a cashier, a doctor, or an uber driver it should be completely okay to exercise self-care when experiencing anxiety, depression, vulnerability, or just a general overwhelming sensation.
Overall, what these upsurges in mental health discussions have caused is a ripple effect for empowering others and normalizing mental health pursuits.
All it takes is one
It only takes one individual to speak out and discuss what they’re going through to get the perpetual mental health topic rolling. This ability of being able to spark change is a power each and every individual possess. By asserting and explaining one’s own difficulties we are ultimately empowering ourselves, others and igniting the spark that can lead to social, political, and cultural change. On a daily basis, many of us feel the immense gravity and need to perform exceptionally well at a job, implicitly and explicitly ignore our own well-being to close a deal, ensure a task is performed perfectly and be willing to do whatever it takes for the team because it’s what needs to get done, but what this moment in the Tokyo Olympics presented us was a new light. At the highest stage of athletic performance sincerity, honesty, and vulnerability won gold. What the Tokyo Olympics and these athletes showed was that we should allow the people around us and ourselves to acknowledge and understand our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors so that we can appropriately seek care options where needed.
Normalization of mental health
Stand up and assert your needs! Take a break! Seek help! Say no when things are feeling overwhelming! Get support! All of these should be acceptable behaviors and decisions one can make depending on their circumstances, workload, and overall sentiments. No more should there be the longstanding belief that athletes should not talk about their mental health. No more should a father, mother, student entrepreneur, or employee feel belittled because they want to put their wellness first. The Tokyo Olympics has become the perfect podium to move the attention away from the awards and concentrate on empowering individuals to proactively put their mental health first and seek different treatment options.
Overall, the truth of the matter is, there is a lot of stigma related to mental health, and most of that stigma propagates itself through secrecy, humiliation, dishonor, exclusion, and shame. This stigma not only causes athletes to repress and keep quiet, but it also hinders the growth of all individuals in a society. In the same fashion as how we express sympathy and empathy when an athlete is physically injured and root for them to overcome their difficulties, we should expel that same energy and judgement when we observe someone acknowledge and overcomes their own mental health difficulties. Through these realizations and self-reflections, we will be able to change the cultural zeitgeist, prioritize mental health, redefine strength and focus on the inherent value of every human being.
Choose to break the stigma, keep discussing mental health, don’t let it silence you! To learn more about options at Segal Trials, visit our Enrolling Studies.
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