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To think that a trend is starting here

(158 Posts)
Pammie1 Sat 31-Jul-21 15:11:10

I’m trying to put this forward as delicately as I can because I know it’s a difficult subject, and I’m probably going to get flamed however I put it. I have just been listening to the news from the Olympics and it seems that following Simone Biles’ withdrawal from competition, citing her mental health as the reason, several other athletes are now following suit. I have ongoing mental health issues myself so I know something of MH issues. I realise that there are huge stresses on these athletes but am I being unreasonable to think that if you have competed for and gained a place on the Olympic team then you have a responsibility to make sure that you are mentally prepared for it as well as physically ? One athlete has pulled out, citing mental health issues after failing to qualify for a particular event. Mental health issues have rightly been highlighted as a result of the pandemic, and I agree that there is not enough being done in this area, but surely the midst of competition at the highest level is not the right place to consider whether you are ‘in the right frame of mind’ to compete. What do others think ?

B9exchange Sat 31-Jul-21 15:18:08

Sadly mental health issues are not something you can control, any more than a broken leg. They happen, and need fixing. What those athletes are doing is putting extreme pressure on their bodies, and trying to do that while not focused could lead to life changing injuries.

I do understand the fear that some might use 'needing to look after my mental health' as an excuse not to do something they would rather not, but in this case after years of preparation, I imagine the poor girl must be absolutely devastated to have to pull out, and she has all my sympathies and wishes for a full recovery.

Gwyneth Sat 31-Jul-21 15:29:52

I’m just surprised that with the support top athletes receive from various professionals that mental health issues are not spotted before the athlete is selected to compete. Surely coaches etc would realise that something was not right?

Doodledog Sat 31-Jul-21 15:30:28

I have a lot more respect for people who pull out of things like this, where it is their own lives that are impacted than I do for people who take time off work on a regular basis because of stress.

I dare say that it's not until you get to the top of a career like competitive sport that you realise that it is affecting your mental health, but I have known people who have kept jobs for years whilst regularly taking time off at peak times or when they feel the pressure getting to them. They keep the job (and the salary) but pass on the stress to colleagues, and it is so selfish of them.

Pulling out of the Olympics must be a huge decision, and like B9exchange I have every sympathy.

Pammie1 Sat 31-Jul-21 15:30:32

Yes, for things to end like that after the years of preparation must be devastating, which is why I have problems understanding the number of athletes who’ve followed suit. I don’t recall it happening in previous Olympics, and I wonder whether a lot of it is down the various pressures of the pandemic. The postponement of the games and the ensuing doubts about whether they would go ahead at all can’t have been easy to deal with I suppose.

Pammie1 Sat 31-Jul-21 15:32:28

@Doodledog. But do you not think there are similarities with people taking time off work at peak times ? The athletes pulling out are putting extra pressure on their team mates to pick up the slack. Surely it’s the same thing.

Doodledog Sat 31-Jul-21 15:36:41

In team sports, possibly, but there will be substitutes who will be delighted to get a chance to perform (I assume?).

In a work situation I would sympathise if someone left and got a less stressful role, but having worked with someone who regularly was off sick with stress (to the point that others could predict when it was going to happen) and knew that we would have to pick up her slack, I'm afraid I have no sympathy left, and I do see it as different.

Galaxy Sat 31-Jul-21 15:36:46

Do you know Simone Biles history?

Doodledog Sat 31-Jul-21 15:42:20


Do you know Simone Biles history?

Me? No. I was responding to the general thrust of the thread.

SpringyChicken Sat 31-Jul-21 15:51:52

I was listening to a discussion on 5Live about this yesterday. In particular, they were discussing our girl who won a trampoline medal and who has struggled in the past with mental health issues. It’s called something else in trampolining but Simone Biles is going through the ‘Twisties’ which is the gymnastics equivalent.
I probably am not going to explain this very well but as I understand it, during a trampoline routine, the girl lost her orientation about thirty feet up in the air and had to abort the move to land safely.
Apparently she was unable to do that move when she next tried. It is very frightening to be ‘lost ‘ in mid air, not knowing where you are in relation to the floor. Her body issued a protection response which she could not overcome. It has taken her a long time to be able to perform that move again.
Similarly, golfers get the yips.

Presumably, Simone was performing to a high enough standard to be selected for the team but the added pressure (which she has handled in the past) tipped her over the balance point this time. It must be nigh on impossible to say when these episodes will occur.

Pammie1 Sat 31-Jul-21 15:52:02

@Galaxy. Me neither, I was responding to the news that other athletes had followed suit, including a member of the British team. I don’t remember anything like this happening at previous Olympics and I was just wondering why now ?

@Doodledog. I see your point, but as someone with Bipolar which has particular triggers, I can also understand how stress in the workplace can lead to time off which is probably predictable, but nevertheless genuine. I handled it by moving to a less stressful position, but I suppose not everyone would be prepared to consider that as an option and a good manager should be on top of what’s going on in their workplace to support all concerned.

GillT57 Sat 31-Jul-21 15:53:22

I just hope that Simone Biles hasn't watched or heard Piers Morgan talking about her, what an insensitive man he is, but there again it was on GB news so she probably hasn't. It must take a lot of 'guts' to withdraw from high level competition, worries about letting people down, about other potential competitors who could have got your place instead, all these factors must make the decision harder. Ben Stokes too I hear.

grannyactivist Sat 31-Jul-21 15:57:08

To me it seems a similar thing to a bride calling off her wedding at the last minute. Awful at the time, for everybody, but better than making a mistake that could have potentially lifelong repercussions.

Galaxy Sat 31-Jul-21 16:06:36

Sorry doodle I was asking OP. She was sexually assaulted by the gymnastic physician who assaulted other gymnasts. It was also claimed that USA gymnastics had a role in covering it up. I think she has faced issues that many of us cant imagine.

M0nica Sat 31-Jul-21 16:08:57

An athletes life is so different from what it was 20 or more years ago. To achieve sporting success at a high level now you need to devote your whole life to it 24/7, usually from a very young age, early teens, and sometimes younger.

Everything you do is controlled in your life, what you eat, how much you sleep, while your day is a relentless cycle of training. Young athletes also have to fit their schooling round all this. then their are the sports psychologists to train your mind to make you think in a way that leads to success.

All this and we are surprised that a growing number of them are having mental health problems, the miracle is that many more are not having them.

I think the whole process of elite sport has to be looked at again, the pressure on the perforers is too much.

If I had a child or grandchild who was good at a sport, I would think twice before encouraging them to pursue it too far. My DGD is a very good swimmer and as she reached 11 her swimming teacher was encourging her to join the local swimming club and start training there as she thought she had potential.

Fortunately, DGD decided herself she didn't want to do it because she said she knew people in the club and once you get started, swimming has to become your whole life outside school and she had too many other interests that she wanted to keep in her life.

Germanshepherdsmum Sat 31-Jul-21 16:10:11

I know I’ll be shot down in flames for saying this but I do get fed up with hearing about people’s mental health every day. I’ve lived with depression (medicated) for decades and I’ve managed to hold down a very stressful job throughout. I’ve never taken time off, I’ve just got on with things despite at times being suicidal. I’ve always felt my obligations very keenly and honoured them to the very best of my ability. I just don’t see that sort of attitude in a lot of people who bleat about their ‘mental elf’ these days. I judge no-one more harshly than I judge myself but there are times I’d like to shake them and tell them to get a grip. Thank goodness the men and women who fought for us in world wars weren’t the wimps we’re surrounded by today. (Ducks and retires quickly!)

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 16:17:36

I’m in awe that Biles has been able to continue with gymnastics in any shape or form.

Cricket players have a extremely high incidence of mental health problems.
The profession has one of the highest suicide rates.

M0nica Sat 31-Jul-21 16:20:15

Germanshepherdsmum I do agree that claiming mental health problems is used as a 'get out of gaol card' by some people, but not many.

Most people before hid problems and did try and cope, but in wartime, there is a sense of common purpose and the fear of what could happen.

And do not forget that many of those serving in the war had very severe mental problems at the time and many for a lifetime afterwards, but mental health then was dismissed as 'weakness', as you are doing now and our asylums, big and hidden in quiet leafy places held hundreds if not thousands of people whose lives were destroyed by mental illness.

One of my uncles own mental health was destroyed by growing up in a household where his father was physically and mental damaged for life following his army service in WW1. More recently the marriage of the daughter of a good friend was destroyed by the mental health problems her husband, in the territorial army, suffered from, after serving in Serbia and Bosnia during the Balkan Wars of the 1980s and 90s

Doodledog Sat 31-Jul-21 16:23:49

That's awful, Galaxy. I'm not surprised she felt she had to leave.

I am not unsympathetic to people with mental health issues; but I think that if we are meant to see them as the same as physical ones (when it comes to the workplace) that has to work both ways.

Few people would object to an employer asking for qualifications from people they want to consider for a job. Clearly this is to test their knowledge or ability to cope with exams or courses of study. Similarly, some roles preclude those with colour blindness (electrical engineering) or actual blindness (bus drivers) and few would argue with that. If someone is struck by a physical ailment that means that they can no longer carry out their work they would have to leave and do something else.

If someone's mental health is fragile and they are unable to cope with a stressful role, then similarly they should leave and do something that they can cope with. In my experience it is people in jobs with a decent salary (paid because the role is stressful) who refuse to do so, and opt out of things that they find difficult to do, usually without a second thought for the mental health of the people who are left to do that job as well as their own.

It is difficult for managers to deal with the problem, as they are accused of discrimination.

GillT57 Sat 31-Jul-21 16:27:11

the old asylums were full of people whose mental health was shattered by war. I am sorry to hear you have a lifetime of mental health illness germanshepherdsmum, and admire how you have been able to carry on, but surely you, out of all of us, must recognise that not all mental health illness is the same. The pressure on young athletes needs to be looked at, especially in the light of recent revelations about bullying, abuse, sexual abuse by coaches who can make or break the future career of adolescents and children.

Doodledog Sat 31-Jul-21 16:32:52

Yes, I agree with that, GillT57.

Any competitive sport will be high pressure, but sexual abuse (obviously) needs to be rooted out, as does bullying. I think that the situation in sport is different from other jobs, though, as there are specific circumstances surrounding it.

User7777 Sat 31-Jul-21 16:33:41

I fully admire anyone who could make it to the Olympics from sheer talent and dedication. I feel for Simone, and any decision she makes is right for her. Am I right in thinking these young athletes have no family or friends with them for support?. I think these young athletes are fantastic,... and having reached the heights they trained for .Amazing. No expectations from me...

Blossoming Sat 31-Jul-21 16:50:15

I really hope that more mental health awareness isn’t just ‘a trend’.

It takes courage to speak up about it and risk being vilified for somehow ‘lacking in moral fibre’.

MoorlandMooner Sat 31-Jul-21 16:51:36

'mental elf ' 'wimps' 'bleat' 'want to shake them and tell them to get a grip'

This is 2021. Surely we are better than this?

Is this really how we think of people who are ill or struggling?

BlueBelle Sat 31-Jul-21 17:04:21

Surely coaches etc would realise that something was not right
The woman was sexually abused as a child by those deemed to be looking after her !!! Maybe she has good cause to have mental health issues especially around her performances
She said she made some mistakes and those mistakes could have caused her sever injury so she did the wisest thing

Just like the lass at Wimbledon who had panic attacks you can’t always keep going how ever much training you have had