Naomi Osaka on Mental Health – “it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it.”

Naomi Osaka has written a powerful essay for Time about her mental health. In it she talks about her decision to withdraw from the French Open, taken some time off to prioritize her mental wellbeing.

In a statement posted on social media the day she withdrew from Roland Garros, she had said –

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.”

Naomi Osaka, May 2021

Athlete Mental Health

In the essay, Naomi speaks candidly about the pressure athletes endure, and how this inevitably impacts their mental health. Her message is as relevant as it is timely, and it is critical that sport organisations take note. This was highlighted by the recent decision made by Simone Biles to withdraw from competitive events at the Olympics. Biles also mentioned her mental health as a reason for the decision.

“I feel uncomfortable being the spokesperson or face of athlete mental health as it’s still so new to me and I don’t have all the answers. I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel.”

Naomi Osaka

Osaka points out that athletes are human beings just like the rest of us. However they are held to a different standard when it comes to issues such as physical or mental health. When a worker needs to take a sick day they are not pressured to reveal every single personal detail. Athletes, however, are not afforded the same right to privacy.

There can be moments for any of us where we are dealing with issues behind the scenes. Each of us as humans is going through something on some level. 

Naomi Osaka

It’s OK not to be OK

It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does. The number of messages I received from such a vast cross section of people confirms that. I think we can almost universally agree that each of us is a human being and subject to feelings and emotions.

Naomi Osaka

Thank you Naomi. By speaking up, you are not only speaking up for yourself and for athletes. You are also speaking up for each and every single one of us who has struggled, and is still struggling, with their mental health.

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