Simone Biles & The Olympics: The Mental Health Issue Not Being Discussed

Erin Schaefer, PCC-S, IMFT-S

When I first heard about Simone Biles removing herself from the gymnastic competition due to a “medical issue”, I was concerned about whether she had hurt her leg or sprained something, a devastating injury for an Olympic athlete. Once word came out that, in fact, she had removed herself due to mental health issues, I said, “oh of course, that makes perfect sense!”  However, the reaction on social media and the internet was swift and ran the gamut from, “She is so strong and so brave” to “How could she let down her teammates and the country?  She should have just pushed through it!”

To be clear, I am not a gymnast, no matter how much my younger self tried to make that happen in my front yard in the summer. However, I am a licensed therapist and counselor, so I understand the field of mental health. What I know about USA Gymnastics is more related to my field of knowledge:  prior to the Olympics, I had read a lot about the horrible sexual abuse scandal, revealed just a few of years ago. Larry Nassar, former Team USA Gymnastics doctor, had been convicted and imprisoned for sexually abusing hundreds of female gymnasts over his many years as the team doctor.  The scandal was exposed in 2016; he was convicted in 2017.  This is the first Olympics since all the information has come forth.

When I heard about Simone removing herself for mental health issues, I immediately thought of trauma. Trauma embeds itself in our brains, our bodies, and our minds.  It infects all our senses and imprints on us when an event occurs. Trauma can also linger, hovering underneath, waiting to surface without warning. When a person experiences trauma, that person can be triggered by memories of that trauma by almost anything:  a noise, a smell, a similar scene, or even a repetition of a similar experience. Sometimes, trauma reappears in the form of a flashback of the original event. In some cases, the trauma can be triggered and manifest itself in ways that do not even seem to be connected to the original traumatic event. For instance, someone who experienced trauma as a very young child might not have any memory of the actual abuse, but when returning to the location where previous abuse had occurred, the person might experience a sleep disturbance and not even know why. This physical manifestation of the trauma is part of the body’s “memory” of the event and the cues of what happened there. However, the body “knows” and the brain “remembers” even when the conscious mind does not.

To me, Simone’s case could easily be connected to the trauma she has experienced. Being back in a high-pressure competitive situation, the first Olympics since the scandal was brought to light, can be very “triggering”. Even though it might not be conscious for her, it is quite possible her body and mind are reacting to that stimulus and trying to make sense of it. Obviously, I am not her therapist, her counselor, or her doctor; I am merely an outsider, looking in. For me, the most important thing is that she is listening to her body AND her mind, as both are telling her, “Something is not right here.” Slowing down to listen, adjusting as she goes, and giving herself space and time is absolutely essential for her as an elite athlete – and a great lesson for the rest of us. Let her example be a reminder to us all to be patient with ourselves and to look out for each other. 

The Author: Erin Schaefer, PCC-S, IMFT-S, is the Executive Vice President/Executive Director at Catalyst Life Services.  She received a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pacific Lutheran University in 1997 and a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling in 2002 from the University of Akron.  Erin has worked in community mental health for over 20 years.  She was also director of Ashland Parenting Plus, a small nonprofit agency focused on teen pregnancy prevention, juvenile diversion, and parent education.  She served on the board and as president of the Ohio Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and also on the board of directors of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy from 2011-2013, and is currently the Treasurer. She has been a member of AAMFT since 1997 and is a Clinical Fellow.  Erin is a catalyst for Empathy.

July News

Did you know?

Minority groups in the U.S. are less likely to receive quality care.

Poor mental health care access contributes to poor mental health outcomes among minority populations.

For mental health support call our 24/7 Helpline 419-522-HELP (4357)

Click HERE to watch a video about National Minority Mental Health Month

Sparking the Conversation

Click HERE to watch Elaine Surber and Erin Schaefer as they represent Catalyst Life Services on the show Sparking the Conversation.

Learn More About WIOA

WIOA stands for Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act and it is giving individuals ages 18-24 so many new resources and opportunities to make their way into the workforce. If you or someone you know is interested in this WIOA program please contact Stephanie Jakubick at 419-774-2250!

Click HERE to read an article and learn more about the option offered for transitional youth support!

Behavioral Health Urgent Care

Catalyst is preparing to welcome the new Behavioral Health Urgent Care on August 2nd!

Check out the flexible hours offered for those seeking help in the community!

Catalyst at the Carrousel

Click HERE to learn more about our community event at the Carrousel on August 6th! Stop by and visit our team members to learn more about all of the services Catalyst has to offer and enjoy a night of fun!

Oasis is Reopening


LAST CALL! Today is your last opportunity to register for the Catalyst Life Services Golf Scrammble that is hosted by Mid-Ohio Area CLC!

Click HERE to lock in your spot and register now!

June News

Did You Know?

Progress Industries has been serving the community since 1964 providing employment opportunities to individuals with barriers to employment. Chan Stevens was integral in the start of this workshop 57 years ago and has had a huge impact ever since.

Click HERE to read a recent article about Chan Stevens and Progress Industries!

Photo provided by Mansfield News Journal.

Chan Stevens – Catalyst Hall of Fame
On Tuesday June 15th, Chan Stevens was the inaugural inductee into the newly formed Catalyst Life Services Hall Of Fame. Chan Stevens began his lifetime of exceptional work at the age of 16 by transporting children with disabilities to and from their treatment appointments. Chan has provided dedicated service and efforts where they count most, by chairing two successful capital campaigns benefiting much needed new and updated facilities. Chan has been giving to his community for most of his life and has served as an integral member of the Board of Trustees for 57 years. His virtue and wisdom will leave an indelible imprint on Catalyst Life Services and the many we serve in our community. 

Click HERE to learn more about Chan’s life and successes!

Golf Scramble

The Golf Scramble is hosted by Mid-Ohio Area CLC

Register by filling out a registration form and bringing it into Catalyst OR register online by clicking below!


Join us at the Richland Carrousel  on August 6th from 6PM to 8PM to get the chance to learn more about the services offered at Catalyst while enjoying free snacks, beverages, carrousel rides, face paint, balloons, and more!

Coming Soon

Stay tuned to learn more about the Behavioral Health Urgent Care services that will be available at Catalyst in the following months. The Behavioral Health Urgent Care will allow for immediate access for initial assessments and brief, solution-focused counseling Monday through Saturday and two evenings per week, on a walk-in basis.

A Message From the CEO

Catalyst would like to thank you for your continued partnership and support of the agency. We are grateful for the trust you have given us to support the community in such critical ways. We wanted to inform you that last week, our agency completed a 3-day survey facilitated by the Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities (CARF). CARF is an international gold standard accreditation, in which our program standards are reviewed by professionals who determine if the agency is meeting over 3,000 key standards.

These standards look at many areas, including: Finance, Human Resources, IT, Health/Safety, Leadership, Governance,  Vocational Services, Mental Health/Substance Abuse Services and programming, Audiology and several other areas.  We are proud to share that Catalyst received zero findings during this review, and were found to be 100 percent compliant with all standards. Our lead surveyor shared the rarity of an organization having zero findings, stating that “it is almost unheard of.” Our CARF surveyors stated “Staff at Catalyst are professional, caring, competent and take pride in their work.”  The CARF surveyors referred to Catalyst as “the flagship organization in our area.”  We are proud of our results and the quality services we provide to the community and so we felt it important to share this success with our partners, stake holders, and funding sources. We look forward to another year of serving the community.

What does CARF accreditation mean for the public? 

For those being served, CARF accreditation means that the CARF-accredited service provider is committed to reducing risk, addressing health and safety concerns, respecting preferences of individuals (cultural or otherwise), and providing the best quality of care possible.  It also shows that the accredited organization values the feedback and input of their clients and is accountable to the community.  Accreditation demonstrates that a CARF-accredited service provider has made a specific commitment to put the needs of their residents at the center of everything they do and that they respect the rights and individuality of its clients.