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Cartoon praises Simone Biles for putting her mental health first

Editorial cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz spoke to TODAY about his viral cartoon.
/ Source: TODAY

A cartoon that praises Simone Biles for focusing on her mental health during the Tokyo Olympics is going viral on Instagram this week.

The image, created by editorial cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, caught the attention of many social media users over the weekend for its symbolism. It currently has more than 18,000 likes and counting on his Instagram account.

In the cartoon, Biles can be seen high up in the air above a medal podium. The three winners stand in their respective spots (gold, silver and bronze) as Biles leaps above a separate column that reads "mental health."

Alcaraz, a two-time Pulitzer finalist in the editorial cartooning category, captioned the post, "Simone Biles wins again!" and added the hashtag #mentalhealth.

Alcaraz, who works on Nickelodeon's animated television show “The Casagrandes” as a cultural consultant and writer, touched many social media users with the meaningful cartoon.

"Without our health we have nothing," one of his followers wrote. Another commented, "You nailed it!!"

The cartoonist told TODAY he was inspired to create the cartoon after hearing Biles speak about her mental health struggles at the Olympics.

"Even though she is one of the top athletes in the world, I saw that she was under such a harsh spotlight and (facing) inappropriate criticism simply for trying to take care of herself. I felt the need to support her struggle by drawing this cartoon," he wrote in an email.

In the cartoon, Biles earned the top spot because she put her mental health first. Alcaraz applauded the gymnast for her act of courage.

"The message is that Simone, like all people, is in a category all of her own. Her mental health, and everyone’s mental health, should be a top concern, over anything else in life," he said. "Only she completely understands what she’s going through, and we should applaud her for recognizing whatever problem she is having, and taking actions to address it."

Alcaraz told TODAY he is thrilled that people are responding so positively to the cartoon and was honored to see comedian Leslie Jones share it on her Instagram account Sunday.

The Instagram account @tanksgoodnews also posted the cartoon and it's received more than 277,000 likes there.

After seeing his cartoon shared so widely, Alcaraz said he hopes it raises additional awareness of the value we should all place on mental health.

"Young people are going to drag the rest of society towards a better understanding of mental health, and we need it badly," he said.