UNCW athlete relates to Simone Biles shining a light on mental health, wellbeing

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 9:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 9:17 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - U.S. Olympian Simone Biles withdrew from a gymnastics team event during the Olympics, but not for an injury — for mental health reasons.

After pulling herself from the event, she’s made an impact on other’s lives.

“It’s just showed me how much my mental health really affects every part of my life,” said UNC Wilmington athlete Blair Barefoot.

Barefoot said she was shocked when she first heard the news about Biles, but she understands what it’s like to not be in the right head space.

“The people I was around were constantly bringing me down, they made me not wanna compete, not wanna go to practice, and then I wasn’t performing well in my sport,” said Barefoot.

After battling her mind for the love of the game, she transferred to UNCW and has gained the support an athlete needs.

The pressure to achieve greatness is a constant battle, before, during, and after the game.

“So, we want to be the biggest, the baddest, the fastest, the strongest, and we need a wellness in our minds to perform and have our bodies perform in that way,” said Cristen Williams, School Based Services Program Director for Coastal Horizons.

Those at Coastal Horizons want everyone to learn something from Biles shining a light on mental health wellness.

“Often our body will feel a stress before our mind ever knows, so I think there’s often times that when we talk about mental wellness and mental health, that people are like, ‘Well stress is a part of everyone’s life, everyone deals with it,’ but it’s about how we deal with it. ”Are we finding healthy ways to cope and manage, and if we’re not, how do we have the same courage and ask for support, or for help, or for resources?” said Williams.

Sometimes, it’s not easy to explain or understand, but athletes, like Barefoot, are still figuring it out.

“Knowing what motivates me again, and inspires me to keep going, I have to do those things. I have to recognize it, and think about those things and then just go and do them because that action part is what was huge for me,” said Barefoot.

And if things came down to it, Barefoot said, “If my heart and my head isn’t in it, I really do think I would step out, but it would be a really hard decision.”

The conversation about mental health picked up during the pandemic.

“People were feeling levels of stress they weren’t feeling before, levels of isolation that we weren’t feeling before, and I was happy to see that we started talking about mental health and mental wellness and how are we going to deal with these new symptoms that we are having in our lives,” said Williams.

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