Simone Biles' exit brings global attention to mental health
Simone Biles' withdrawal from Olympics gymnastics events generated significant public interest in mental health, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.
Why it matters: The Tokyo Games offered the ultimate platform for the topic to get global attention, with much of the world watching the same story.
Biles sparked a bigger conversation about mental health than either Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah or Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from the French Open — both of which generated significant international interest.
By the numbers: In the week following Biles' withdrawal from the team event, stories about the gymnast and mental health generated more than 2 million social media interactions (likes, comments, shares) — 25% higher than Meghan and Harry in the days following their interview.
- Google searches about mental health spiked that day, hitting their highest level in more than two months.
The big picture: The intensity of coverage around mental health has picked up with major events over the course of the year.
- There were more than 9,000 stories on Biles and mental health over the last week — nearly twice the coverage of Osaka two months earlier, and nearly four times more than the mental health angle with the Royals.
Between the lines: Biles, Osaka and Markle all cited the burden of expectation as stars from whom much is demanded.
- Biles' distress was compounded by a case of the "twisties", which gymnasts recognize as the loss of the ability to find themselves while in the air and react as they are trained.
- The phenomenon not only means that they can't perform well, but that they put themselves in danger if they perform at all.
- Each of the incidents involved Black women who faced considerable public blowback following their moments of candor.