Read the Q&A from Fox 5 News Good Day hosts Rosanna Scotto and Bianca Peters as they discuss Simone Biles, mental health and the Olympics with Dr. Marissa Norman.
Below is the Q&A of the live interview held on July 29th, 2021 on Fox 5 News
It’s really, I think, an experience of a stress response. [In] our stress response when we are experiencing stress, we might experience muscle tension. We might experience tingling in our limbs. We might experience difficulties concentrating and it’s an experience that takes us outside of our body. It’s really difficult when we’re having that experience to feel our body [and] to know where our body is in space. It’s very dangerous as Simone has mentioned. Her [Biles] decision was a result of safety. It can be really unsafe competing in that experience as competing in gymnastics is [an] already risky sport, adding that layer on can make it even more challenging.
I don’t know for sure, but it absolutely can be a factor. I think we are all aware of a lot of the adversities that Simone had faced in her life. Nasser is an example, foster care is another example and then sprinkle on top of that the challenges, [and] the pressures associated with the Olympics. I think they are all contributing factors to what we are seeing here.
Absolutely. In a lot of ways our mental injury is that invisible injury. It’s often times overlooked unless we know the signs [or] unless we know what to look for. He [McIlroy] is absolutely right with that statement. It is an injury and the more we can normalize that…if Simone twisted her ankle and had a physical injury, I think this would be less of a discussion and the hope for the future is that the same would happen with mental health challenges.
The pandemic is definitely another factor. Let’s not forget, as a result of the pandemic, the Olympics were pushed. That’s another year of dedication, stress, [and] having to make more sacrifice. Absolutely, that could be a contributing factor.
I think if this became something that we saw Simone [Biles] doing every single meet [then] that would be concerning because that would be a maladaptive coping strategy. Looking at her history [and] looking at her resilience, I think this was her time. This was her time to take that break. I think she made the best decision for herself. I think we have to really put that in context concerning her background, her struggles, and her situation. I think she made the best decision for herself and her team in that moment. I think, again, if we’re seeing this as a repeated habit for athletes, that might be more concerning. We want to prevent that avoidance coping strategy to better deal with mental health challenges.
I think it’s okay to take it day-by-day just like a physical injury. We don’t know how we’re going to feel in a couple of days and [with] mental health we can work on certain strategies to help us feel better. In a few days, by next week she could feel better enough to compete [but] we just don’t know. Taking it day-by-day and using that time intentionally to take care of herself, she may be able to come back next week so I do think that’s important.
Something simple that we can do every day is simply check-in with ourselves. I think we’re constantly “go go go go” that we forget to check-in. “How am I doing today?” “What is it that I need?”... whether that’s a nap, hanging out with friends, [or] exercising. I think the most important thing is being open and willing to ask for help when we need it the most.