Biles, Osaka speaking out on mental health starts long-overdue national conversation: Therapist

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Friday, July 30, 2021
Biles, Osaka spark long-overdue national conversation on mental health
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A therapist says that Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka bravely speaking out has started a national conversation that's long overdue.

The social media machine is humming with conversations about gymnast Simone Biles' decision to pull out of competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games to primarily protect her mental health.

Tennis great Naomi Osaka skipped big matches for the same reason. Osaka even reflected on her devastating loss in the Olympics and her ability to protect her mental health from the extraordinary pressure of always being expected to win.

"Those great two individuals that you just mentioned it makes me happy that they made that decision honestly," said Eric Coly, founder of Ayana Therapy, which provides online therapy for primarily Black, indigenous and other people of color.

In an interview with ABC7, Coly said the pressure on athletes, in general, can be overwhelming, but for those of color like Biles and Osaka it can be simply too much to deal with.

All too often people of color try to cope with mental health challenges without seeking professional help, he said, adding that Biles and Osaka bravely speaking out has started a national conversation that's long overdue.

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If her brain wouldn't play along with what her body knows how to do, she could be seriously injured.

"What it did it uncovered a lot of what we know to be resistant, which is disparities racially as opposed to economically," Coly said. "And what those two women did gave solace to the fact that all the things that we had heard was in silence to many people in these communities. We are trying to be proactive and preventive in educating individuals in our, in our market."

Ayana therapy has been around for several years and has helped a lot people, Coly said. He believes Biles and Osaka should be praised for speaking out about their mental health challenges.

"Part of what causes this is the inability to be seen and heard," he said. "It's the lack of wanting to come out and confess because you don't think it's going to be well received. They're not wanting to compete should not be a shock or a surprise. We should be able to receive this with empathy.""

To learn more about Ayana therapy, visit