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by Sylvia B. Bodell
| Adolescents, Teens, Children, Families, Parenting, Trauma, Counseling

Put Mental Health First — a conversation with Dr. Carrie Davidson



Last week, Simone Biles shocked the world when she said, "Put mental health first...It's OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor you really are, rather than just battle through it."

We’ve seen a lot of commentaries about Simone's withdrawal from the Olympics to prioritize her mental health.

At The Center, there's no shortage of discussion around Simone. She is the most decorated female gymnast of all time and now an unofficial spokesperson for mental health.

There’s been an outpouring of support for Simone and it feels like a win for mental health and for true health parity – physically and mentally.

We’re fortunate to hear from one of our licensed psychologist on staff, Dr. Carrie Davidson, Director of Assessments and Clinical Services at The Center. Dr. Davidson is a highly regarded mental health professional and was a competitive athlete playing tennis at a D-1 college. She knows a thing or two about pressure at a higher level.

Dr. Davidson is also mom to two daughters, one of whom is a competitive gymnast.

In our opinion, there’s not a better expert around to share her professional and personal thoughts, so let’s start.
What are some of the conversations you’ve had with your own daughter?
We discussed the dangers inherent in gymnastics and the need to be mentally and physically healthy to participate. This has been a nice example to my daughter and to everyone that mental health is a crucial component of health.

If I was in a "slump" in tennis, I might've embarrassed myself, but there was a slim chance that I could have physically injured myself. Experiencing the "twisties" in gymnastics is much different and might cause one to suffer a catastrophic injury.

In prioritizing her mental health, Simone has displayed that she is aware of her own needs and abilities despite the input of outside noise. It takes a certain level of self-awareness and maturity to make this type of decision.

Simone's ability to bench herself based on knowing her own needs and skills has been a compelling example for a gymnastic community that has historically ignored the input of gymnasts in making health decisions for their athletes.

As more athletes speak out about mental health issues, they pave the way in making it more normal and acceptable to speak about our mental health needs. They are showing that it is "okay not to be okay."

It's also a powerful message that we are not "what we do." Our worth is not based on our successes or in our careers. Our worth is in being a child of God, and despite how we do, or if we win or lose, we are loved, cared for, and worthy.

Simone has been an excellent example of what it means to be a teammate. She is the first one encouraging, cheering, supporting, and leading her teammates. By choosing to opt out of several events, Simone created opportunities for her teammates to shine.

No one would have pulled Simone from a competition except her, and she knew what was needed and allowed the space for her teammates to shine.

Let's talk about mental health being as important as physical health
As I mentioned above, you cannot be truly healthy if you are not working and prioritizing your mental health and physical health. Simone made this decision by prioritizing her mental health and by being aware of her own needs.

We all need to be self-aware of who we are, how we function at our best and worst, and understanding our own feelings. Sometimes that means we make decisions based on feelings, and sometimes we make decisions despite our feelings.

Unless we have self-awareness, we do not know what is needed and when. We all have great days, and we all have bad days, and that is okay.

Therapy and Assessments at The Center
At The Center we believe the first step is to talk about it. We're here for you. For more information or to schedule an appointment for therapy or an assessment at The Center’s Central Office or one of its Network Offices across North and Central Texas, call 214-526-4525 or go to www.thecentercounseling.org/team to learn more.
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