US Olympic team raise bar on mental health and ‘sleep hygiene’ ahead of Paris 2024

The US team hope to prioritise the mental wellbeing of athletes at the Olympics

Amy Tennery
Tuesday 16 April 2024 09:40 BST
Simone Biles has helped change perceptions about mental health
Simone Biles has helped change perceptions about mental health (PA Archive)

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has raised the bar on mental health services in sport, Jess Bartley, the senior director of psychological services at the USOPC, said on Monday.

Once seen as taboo in the hard-charging world of elite sports, the topic of mental health was thrust to the fore thanks in part to American gymnast Simone Biles, who rewrote the playbook on athlete wellness at the Tokyo Games three years ago.

“There doesn’t have to be anything wrong with you to focus on your mental health,” said Bartley.

“We have just really, really improved, the level of service, the quality of service, that all of these athletes can get when it comes to mental health. And I don’t think we’re done.”

The USOPC had adopted a more proactive approach to athletes’ mental health at the Beijing Games, learning lessons from Biles and emphasising crisis prevention and maintenance.

Sleep hygiene has become a major focus going into this summer’s Paris Games, said Bartley, who joined the USOPC in a newly created position in 2020.

“We’re going to talk about jet lag and how you can travel with us and how to put your sleep hygiene first,” she told reporters at the Team USA Media Summit in New York.

“There’s going to be a number of pieces that will be a part of mental health that we’ll be able to push forward as we move not only into Paris, but then on to LA (Los Angeles 2028).”


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