Photo Contributed by Wikimedia
On May 31, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open due to recent mental health struggles. She made the announcement on Twitter after refusing to speak to interviewers during the Australian Open.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that, ” Osaka said per Twitter.
In the past two years, Osaka has risen to fame, won championships and even defeated her childhood idol, Serena Williams, on the tennis court. Through her rise to fame, society has put tons of pressure and unreasonable expectations on her. The sports world was in shock by Osaka’s choice to withdraw from the Open, especially since she had a shot at winning another championship title, but her decision was the right decision. While the end goal for her career is to win as many championships as possible or become the greatest player ever, her mental health is way more important.
Many athletes also support her decision. Kyrie Irving, Venus Williams, Stephen Curry and many other celebrity athletes have all responded to Naiomi’s tweet giving her love, support and respect for being honest with herself, making such a difficult decision.
When it comes to athletes and mental issues, scenarios like this one have come up in the past. According to CBS sports, superstar basketball player Kevin Love opened up about his struggles with depression. “My identity was gone. My emotional outlet was gone. My social anxiety was bad to the point where I never left my apartment,” Love said.
After facing mental health issues, Love decided to step away from basketball for a while. Mental illness is common in athletes and many have even opened up to the public about their struggles. Although Osaka was able to acknowledge her need for help and take a step away from doing what she loves, many others have not had that same experience, causing them to not get the help they desperately need.
For example, athlete Delonte West was unaware of how badly his depression was affecting him until he found himself at rock bottom. His depression shortened his NBA career, caused him to have some run-ins with the law and eventually led to him becoming homeless. According to ESPN, he recently sought rehabilitation per his old team owner Mark Cuban and is still looking for work. West practically lost everything and that could have very well been Naomi Osaka in that position had she not withdrawn from the open.
Mental health and depression in modern society are often overlooked. According to the Anxiety and American Depression Association, 16 million American adults suffer from depression. Additionally, 35% of professional athletes suffer from some sort of mental illness and 23.7% of college athletes suffer from depression. The first step to recovery is realizing that you need to focus on yourself. It’s okay to not be okay. Self-love and respect come first.