It is time we stop criticising those who take a moment to prioritise their mental health.
When the four-time Grand Slam singles champion, Naomi Osaka chose to put her mental health first by refusing to attend a press conference, she ignited the much-needed conversation around depression and self-care, especially for people in sport and black women in general.
Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open, was fined $15,000 for refusing her media obligations. Osaka had been warned of disqualification if she continued with her media boycott. Stating that she did not want to be a distraction, Osaka issued the following statement.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Support has been pouring in from all corners for Osaka, here are some reactions:
Serena Williams’s reaction to Naomi Osaka.
“I feel for Naomi. Not everyone’s the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can,” said Serena Williams to CNN who has stood up for Osaka in the past—booing incident at the US Open in 2018.
Dean Stephens’s reaction to Naomi Osaka
Dean Stephens, Evening Anchor, with ABC4 news, tweeted this video from a 2018 press conference.
Anyone throwing their 2 cents at this young woman needs to watch this from 2018 after a match in Charleston. Kudo's for Naomi for taking care of herself. Now and then #NaomiOsaka #mentalhealth @RexChapman pic.twitter.com/r8ixMxL6C4
— Dean Stephens (@abcnews4dean) May 31, 2021
Michell Wie West’s reaction to Naomi Osaka
“I thought what Naomi did this past week was incredibly brave. I also understand that part of being an athlete is speaking to the media because that’s how the tournaments get done, (it) is through the media coverage,” said golfer, Michell Wie to Reuters.
Nike’s reaction to Naomi Osaka
Nike too came out in support, stating, “Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience,” said Nike, who are her sponsors.
"Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience."
Nike has come out in support of tennis star Naomi Osaka following her decision to withdraw from the French Open. https://t.co/48uDLn4XxK
— CNN (@CNN) June 1, 2021
Martina Navratilova’s reaction to Naomi Osaka
“I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes, we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi- we are all pulling for you!” said Martina Navratilova, American tennis player.
I am so sad about Naomi Osaka.I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi- we are all pulling for you!
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) May 31, 2021
Mat Wilander reaction to Naomi Osaka
The Swedish tennis player on the other hand thought otherwise, he stated, “In Japan, she is absolutely huge, maybe the biggest athlete that any country has ever produced. And they don’t get to hear her talk. So yeah, it’s really a bad move and I love what all the players are saying about it,” quotes Wilander for Eurosport.
While Naomi Osaka isn’t the only one breaking the stigma around mental health, Lizzo and Megan Markel and Prince Harry have been vocal about their struggle.
Lizzo, the rapper, who has spoken about body dysmorphia in the past, shared a video on ticktock where the artist was brutally honest about depression. She said, “You know that part of sadness where you feel like a burden on everyone and annoying and nobody cares about you? Can we get rid of that part? It’s like, ‘Yo, I’m already sad. Got to add insult to injury that I have no one to talk to about it? “It’s crazy. Like why do we feel this way? Why do we feel this way when we get sad?”
Healing generational trauma isn’t easy, especially when the world has its eye on you. However, the couple took action and distanced themselves from their Royal duties. In an interview with Oprah, Meghan Markel opened about facing racism—conversations about the darkness of her child’s skin. Prince Harry revealed he felt trapped and was afraid. In his Apple TV+ show, “The Me You Can’t See, Prince Harry can be seen using bilateral simulation and EMDR or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. He has spoken about drug abuse, panic attacks, and dealing with anxiety over the death of his mother.
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