What we Learned from Simone Biles

Here at The Wily Network, we’ve always been huge fans of Simone Biles. Not only is she the most decorated women’s gymnast in history, but she is also a foster care alumna whose scholarship fund and advocacy are helping former foster youth access college.

Now we have yet another reason to feel inspired by Simone. With the eyes of the world on her, she had the bravery to prioritize her mental health by withdrawing from the team portion of the Olympic gymnastics competition. 

At The Wily Network, we know students who have temporarily withdrawn from college for mental health reasons. Like Simone, these students are talented, motivated, and driven to achieve. Taking medical leave can make them feel like they’re giving up, or letting themselves and their supporters down. Simone is showing us that having the self-awareness to understand what you need––and the courage to ask for it––is something to be proud of. 

Mental health medical leave is an issue begging for research. Schools simply don’t keep track of how many people take medical leave or how those students fare long term. But medical leave is a common choice for the many young adults dealing with physical or mental health challenges, and they face immense obstacles in returning to school after taking time off.

Over the last six months, Wily has partnered with Boston University’s School of Public Health practicum program to conduct research on college medical leaves for mental health. This research is focusing on understanding the demographics of the students who take leaves, maintaining stability during the leave, and promoting successful transitions back to college. We also plan to build a fund for supporting Scholars on medical leave, so they can work to manage their trauma and stay on track to graduate.

We applaud Simone for showing the world that taking care of your mental health is a strength, even when it feels like a setback. At Wily we believe that success is not just about what you ultimately earn, be it a gold medal or a diploma. It is about what you do along the way: taking care of yourself, acknowledging your needs, and prioritizing your mental health and wellness.