Following Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles pulling out of their respective events due to mental health concerns, it raises the question about mental health concerns among athletes. Their decisions to remove themselves from the spotlight and put their mental health before their careers made headlines across the world. While both women received praise for being open about their mental health, it also showed why so much more must be done to protect athletes’ mental health.
For Naomi Osaka, it showed how mental health targets everyone, including those highly successful in life. The four-time Grand Slam winner withdrew from the French Open in May. Since then, Osaka has revealed she suffers with anxiety when speaking to the press. Osaka also admitted she has suffered bouts of depression since her victory over Serena Williams in 2018. Both admissions raise serious concerns regarding the culture that surrounds successful athletes. While interacting with the media is part of the life of an athlete, the behaviour towards some media outlets must change. The media must accept that some athletes may want to take a step back and look after themselves from time to time.
Osaka’s admission of depression after her victory over Serena Williams also raises questions over the progression of athletes. After defeating one of the greatest athletes of all time, it was obvious Osaka’s life would never be the same. While Osaka will obviously be proud of her success through her career, the pressure that comes with success is immense. The progress of athletes must be monitored outside the sporting arena, as well as on the court. After her recent loss in the US Open, Osaka revealed her emotions following the loss. “I feel like for me recently, when I win, I don’t feel happy; I feel more like a relief,” And then when I lose, I feel very sad”.
This admission showed how damaging the highs and lows of professional sport can be. Simone Biles, arguably the most successful Olympic Gymnast of all time took some time out from the Olympics to deal with her own mental health difficulties. Specifically, Biles had suffered from the ‘twisties’, a mental block that gymnasts suffer while perfecting their routine in the air. While she received criticism, Biles believed it was best for not just herself, but also her team for her to miss a week of the Olympics. Biles showed incredible bravery and courage to remove herself from what should be one of the greatest moments in her life. In Bile’s last Olympic games before retirement, her main focus was returning home safe, despite the fact she won a bronze medal for her country.
This shows how dangerous mental health issues can be. Biles has overcome many obstacles in her career to achieve success, but mental health has proven to be challenging for everyone across the world. Biles removing herself from the biggest stage shows the importance of self-care at the most important moments of our lives.
Despite the successful careers of both athletes, a huge success is to open a conversation regarding mental health among athletes. To spread the message “It’s OK not to be OK” at the biggest sporting event of the year is hugely significant to those struggling across the world. However, there is still a long way to go to help those struggling, especially in sports. Until the day depression is viewed the same as a knee injury, people may be left behind. Athletes such as Tyson Fury have shown in the past with the correct support, mental health difficulties can be overcome. From alcohol and drug abuse, to becoming world champion, Fury’s journey has shown that there are always better days ahead.