Naomi Osaka’s decision to quit the French Open, citing the anxiety she feels over holding news conferences, is bringing more awareness to the issue of mental health in sports.
The dispute between the second-ranked women’s tennis player and tournament officials over mandatory press appearances has dominated headlines in recent days. At the same time, Osaka’s frank explanation of her challenges has put the spotlight on a seldom-discussed issue among athletes of her caliber. “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018,” Osaka, 23, wrote in a post on Twitter.
An estimated one-third of athletes suffer at some point from a mental-health crisis that manifests as depression and anxiety, eating disorders and burnout, according to studies cited by academics and the International Olympic Committee. Psychological well-being is also an important social issue in Osaka’s home country of Japan, which has the second-highest suicide rate among the Group of Seven nations, after the U.S., and where there’s also a movement to bring more awareness about mental health in sports.
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