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  • Writer's pictureRachel Chan

Fighting fit....

Although I’m more of a winter Olympics fan, I’ve enjoyed following some of the sporting action over this summer. In addition to the summer Olympics, I happened to catch some of the Wimbledon Championships this year too. Both of these events have seen high profile women pull out of their respective competitions for mental health reasons, and I’ve been intrigued to observe the world’s responses. It seems there are two very different trains of thought on the matter. Some have applauded them and hailed them as role models and enlightened athletes. Others have labelled them as ‘snowflakes’ and mused over why people aren’t ‘tougher’ these days.

There’s obviously no prize for guessing which camp I’m in!

One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I didn’t prioritise my mental health sooner. I spend quite a lot of time fearing it may be too late for me to redress that balance in my life, and it’s been a steep learning curve trying to play catch up. For the most part, instead of recognising the challenges and stresses in my life and making sure I care for myself, I’ve instead relegated myself to the very bottom of the list, and totally neglected my own needs and boundaries. It may sound selfless and heroic, but it’s not. It’s stupid and reckless.

As a result of the digital age, we’re exposed to many more opinions than ever before. Likes, clicks and large reactions to comments are valued over kindness, so we can’t rely on others to prioritise our mental health or even support us when we prioritise it for ourselves. I for one, applaud these women for doing what they needed to do in order to protect their own health. I imagine that as a group, athletes know far more than most about how much mental health affects physical health and vice versa. I only hope I can follow their example.

Optimistically, I see another plus in all this. I’m no follower of sports, so I don’t know, but years ago, I wonder if we would have even found out the real reason for these athletes leaving their competitions? Or would there have been some other less controversial reason made up just for show? I feel encouraged by the fact that they had the bravery, not only to make those decisions to leave the competitions, but to tell us the real reason behind it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s another win for open conversations about mental health. I hope that anyone who’s heard about what’s been happening over these competitions will also feel empowered to put their own mental health first.

For me, that’s a far bigger, wider reaching and more important victory than any Olympic or Wimbledon title.

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