A Perspective on Mental Health and the 2021 Olympics

August, 24 2021

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How Mental Health Took the Spotlight at the 2021 Olympics

In recent weeks sport has come back into our lives — both personally and for entertainment. We’ve had the opportunity to watch the best of sport with the return of the Olympics and have enjoyed watching them at all hours of the day and night. One can’t help but feel invigorated and ready for new seasons to begin! It has also provided an opportunity for insight.

Something interesting happened during the Olympics this year. There was a different conversation taking place, an alternate focus emerged whilst we enjoyed cheering on the best of the best. For perhaps the first time in Olympic history, mental health and wellness was a recurring topic of conversation. How incredible is that?

What allowed this conversation to take place?

Perhaps this was enabled due to the fact that current and former Olympians have come together to speak out on mental health in the past year. They’ve shared their experiences; they’ve bravely shed light on the realities of being the ultimate in elite athleticism and taken the risk to introduce the regular public to the dark side of excelling in sport.

Perhaps the fact that there were no journalists on hand to guide the conversation allowed athletes to lead the conversation. Athletes were able to say what they wanted to say. And many chose to address mental health.

Perhaps the striking awareness and confidence of the G.O.A.T., Simone Biles, opened the doors for outwardly embracing mental challenges rather than hiding them. Perhaps her ability to re-evaluate and make a new decision allowed athletes to see the possibilities.

Perhaps the past year and the challenges we have all endured provided the world with an opportunity and willingness to acknowledge that our mental health is as important as physical health. We can no longer pretend that we can have one without the other.

What happened as a result?

The 2021 Summer Olympics were a tremendous success in so many ways. We saw athletes compete in ways we have never seen before. They pursued their dreams without family, friends, or fans there to support them. And they excelled. We saw increased attention to personal bests as opposed to simply cheering on medals. We witnessed women standing up for equality in sport with as much strength as they demonstrate in their sport itself. We observed men join together and share their victories. We saw the inclusion of all individuals like we have never seen before in sport.

So, is this a result of the attention paid to mental health and wellness? Maybe. But without question, it was a part of it. One thing is for sure, however – if we can compete at the highest levels while embracing mental health we can surely do so in all other levels of sport.




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