The Weight of Gold

The mental health crisis, once muffled by stigma, is now at the center of conversations happening around the world— including at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics— where athletes are inspiring and supporting one another to prioritize mental health.

While the exact percentage of Olympic athletes with mental health concerns is unknown since it has not been documented, an increasing number of athletes – particularly young Black athletes – have opened about their struggles with mental health.

Today, Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s Gymnastics team final citing mental health concerns and expressing “there’s more to life than just gymnastics.” Biles added that tennis champ Naomi Osaka had inspired her to ultimately put her mental health and well-being first.  

Earlier this year, Osaka stepped away from the French Open when she elected to skip the post-match press conferences. Osaka felt pressured to reveal her mental health issues. But she is now a leading voice among Olympians discussing the importance of maintaining mental health, reminding peers “It’s O.K. to not be O.K.” and speaking out on behalf of athletes.

Olympic Swimmer and 23-gold-medalist Michael Phelps, who has also been open about his mental health struggles, praised Osaka’s vulnerability and candor.

The Tokyo Games mark the first time the International Olympic Committee has set guidelines to address athletes’ mental health in the same way it advises on nutrition and recovery from physical injury. The move comes as the global mental health pandemic disproportionately affects young adults and people of color.