INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been one of the biggest stories of the past week: tennis superstar Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open, citing her mental health.
The massive debate that’s followed the now-viral story has mental health experts taking notice.
The 23-year-old Osaka first announced via Twitter she wouldn’t be conducting post-match interview. French Open officials also publicly responded, later fining her $15,000 for the missed interview.
The situation hit its peak when Osaka withdrew from the French Open, despite winning her first-round match, and later revealed that she has been dealing with major bouts of depression since her 2018 U.S. Open Championship win against Serena Williams.
Osaka’s move has been both celebrated and panned by many. But, despite the ensuing debate, mental health professionals like Kamri Williams say Osaka’s example is inspiring.
“I feel like that was a great example of setting boundaries and sticking to your boundaries. And just knowing when your mental health has been compromised. So, I was really proud to see it, especially from a person who is really looked at and adored by many young and old and especially her being a person of color,” Williams said.
Williams, a licensed therapist with Counseling at the Green House and founder of Creating Space 4 U, added that setting boundaries is essential when it comes to protecting your mental health and peace.
Perhaps the biggest debate topic that has emerged is those that point to Naomi Osaka only being able to do what she’s doing because she’s a pro athlete who makes millions, while the average American wouldn’t be able to do the same at their job. Williams admits that in many cases that may be true, but, adds that it says more about “work culture” than it does Naomi Osaka.
“I think that definitely speaks towards the current culture in the U.S. You should be able to take a mental health day, you should be able to express your limits and be supportive in doing so. I think she just highlighted why we need to allow others to do the same across the board and other professions as well,” she said.
While more workplaces are starting to take steps to recognize and address mental health, Williams says there is still a long way to go.
Overall, she thinks that if nothing else, Naomi Osaka has highlighted the importance of putting your mental health first despite work commitments and the opinions of others. She also added that she thinks it’s helping to further reduce the stigma around mental health.