As Naomi Osaka Protects Her Peace, We Are Reminded That Mental Health Is Not For Everyone

The response to Naomi Osaka's withdrawal shows we still have a long way to go for mental health acceptance.

Naomi Osaka has announced that she has withdrawn from the French Open and will “take some time away” from the sport as she continues to deal with her mental health. This decision evolved from Osaka declining media obligations after she voiced the stress and anxiety from media sessions. In response, Roland Garros not only fined her but also warned her of expulsion. Not wanting to be a distraction, Osaka pulled out altogether. Out of respect for Naomi, this post will not go into detail about her. This post is more about the general public treats the mental health of athletes, celebrities, and the wealthy.

Naomi walked away to make sure she doesn’t take any spotlight from the game itself. But of course, people still insisted upon dragging her back in. For example, miserable Piers Morgan could not help himself but call Osaka a brat and bring it back to Meghan Markle. This is the same man who couldn’t take being checked by his broadcast colleague and walked off the set before quitting the show entirely. The problem is our culture has created this ideology that if you’re rich or famous, mental health doesn’t affect you. You’re not allowed to complain, and God forbid you feel depressed about the state of your life. You know why? Because they feel rich and famous people have nothing to worry about and nothing normal affects them. This was the case with Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the flag. The typical response was about how rich people don’t even experience racism. I hate to break the news but, rich people get sad too. Famous athletes have anxiety as well. People love involving themselves in every aspect of a famous person’s life. This is not any of your business. Just wish her well and be on your way.

We have seen this often in the media and in particular with athletes. Most leagues require athletes to speak to the media. As much as sports say they care about the athlete’s well-being, the bottom line always comes first. No matter what your mental state may be, you better drag your ass out there and answer questions. Now don’t get me wrong, I think many athletes and celebrities over-dramatize their mental health. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that there should be better protocols in place. Our culture tells us that athletes are rich and don’t have many worries. But let me ask you this: how do expect people who put their bodies through excruciating physicality get threats from fans and even risk being attacked without any mental health issues. Just look at what’s going on now with NBA fans. How quickly we forget what Serena Williams has put up with throughout her career.

          Naomi handled this the right way. Instead of feeding into the game and having the media make everything about her, she chose to step away. She didn’t ask for a boycott. She just wants time to herself. This is often the right move. Too many times on issues such as this, people would instead try to make everyone conform to them as opposed to just taking a step back. I’m sure we all wanted her to channel her inner Marshawn Lynch and say, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” I wish her a speedy recovery as she continues to protect her peace.

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