UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said the public discussion of mental health problems at the Olympics has “opened a door” on the issue.
US gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of a series of events because “physically and mentally I wasn’t in the right head-space” but came back to clinch bronze in the beam.
Britain’s swimming double gold medallist Adam Peaty said he would now spend a month away from the pool to focus on his own mental wellbeing after returning from Tokyo.
Stars in other sports – including England cricketer Ben Stokes and Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka – have also had mental health struggles in recent months.
Former rower Dame Katherine said: “I finished competing in Rio in 2016 and I feel in the last five years, I suppose society has changed as well as sport has.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen athletes who are absolutely the top of their game, really brilliant physical specimens, talking so honestly and so openly about vulnerability and about the challenges that they face and about feeling that sense of pressure or that sense of having to live up to expectations, or not feeling quite right and able to perform.”
She told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: “I think in a way it’s opened a door that has needed to be opening, about people who – they’ve been put on big pedestals and we think everything of – who can still admit to struggling in these situations.
“I hope it helps in the wider society that if people like that can talk about (it) then we all should be able to embrace that opportunity.”