How Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka Have Shifted Our View on Mental Health

The top athletes’ decisions to withdraw may spark important conversations in other industries, including entertainment

When gymnastics champion Simone Biles pulled out of the Olympics this week citing mental health issues, a funny thing happened: People cheered her on. Both Biles’ withdrawal and tennis star Naomi Osaka’s unexpected loss at the Games after disclosing her mental health challenges are new territory in the high-pressure world of sports and celebrity, and experts say it is changing public norms. 

“I thought (it) was tremendously brave, and tremendously helpful for people around the country (and) in the world who have struggles like that as well,” Harris Pastides, an epidemiologist and interim president at University of South Carolina, told TheWrap about Biles’ and Osaka’s public discussion. “The fact that these athletes are almost the epitome of strength, of speed, of agility, of versatility make the rest of us mere mortals want to … acknowledge that they’ve got problems like all people.” 

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Antoinette Siu

Media and Tech Reporter • antoinette.siu@thewrap.com • Twitter: @antoinettesiu