When news of Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open hit the airwaves, the country suddenly entered an intense debate surrounding mental health that had us in a political-like divide. Her decision was debated for days as parties argued whether mental health was a sufficient or reasonable excuse to step back from such an event.
Some sided with Naomi, acknowledging her personal right to unapologetically walk away to tend to her mental health. After all, only she truly knew how life as a public sports figure was affecting her psyche. Others pointed to her wealth and her obligations as an athlete, stating that this was her job and that she should be prepared for what this kind of life comes with. In other words, stop complaining and do what you’re being paid millions to do. But somewhere between the two sides was a point worth noting. Why was her personal decision such an issue for the rest of us? Better yet why were so many of us disappointed, and even disgusted, that mental health was the reason?
There are many layers to this topic, most stemming from the fact that there is often a disconnect whenever mental health is regarded with the same importance as our physical health. It seems that unless we are referencing extreme mental illness, many people don’t consider other aspects of mental wellness as an issue worth mentioning, or an issue at all. Let’s not forget the disparaging misconceptions and stigmas that have many people dismissing their own personal battles, as something they need to just deal with or get over.
Unfortunately, these damaging ideas have long been perpetuated through family dynamics, relationships, the workplace, and even the law. We know the scenarios too well: Denied request for medical leave if reasons cited are not medically diagnosed or physical. Jail sentences instead of medical support, for individuals exhibiting clear signs of extreme mental illness. Name calling and insults for being emotional. It’s a dangerous cycle that dehumanizes people for taking heed of their own emotions.
But if we acknowledge our need for a mental break, why would it be up for debate that Naomi Osaka, regardless of her position as a public figure, be extended any less grace? It goes back to the disconnect that we have about mental health: many assume that money, certain possessions, or life status is a remedy for such concerns. How can anyone with this or that, be depressed? From accomplished adults to developing toddlers, no one is exempt. We are all susceptible to emotions like anxiety, distress, and depression, that may be signs of unresolved, underlying issues, especially if they last for long stretches of time and negatively impact how we function daily.
As Mental Health Day arrives, we want to reflect with our Lifestyle Details community. Whether it’s you or someone you know, you deserve the freedom to cry out for help without being shamed. Your mental health is a central part of who you are. It is worth addressing and most importantly normalizing.