ABUJA, June 02 (IPS) – Recently, world number two tennis player Naomi Osaka, said She will not attend the press conference at the French Open (Roland-Garros) because she wanted to protect her mental health.
The organizers of the tournament were angered, fined and Threat to disqualify him. Would the organizers have reacted differently if Naomi Osaka said she could not attend the tournament’s press briefing due to a physical illness such as abdominal pain? Your guess is as good as mine, but I believe the organizers would have been more sympathetic and provided him with the best medical treatment. The same should be the case for mental health.
It is wrong for the organizers to fine Osaka $15,000 and threaten to suspend her if she does not attend the press conference. Such responses contribute to why mental health is still so widely misunderstood, shrouded in mystery and stigmatized.
There is no other way to put it. Osaka was stigmatized because people didn’t understand mental health and felt she should “man up” and attend a press conference. Furthermore, athletes like him are often seen as superhuman and unable to show weakness.
Osaka withdrew from the French Open due to the backlash, apologized, and the president of the French Tennis Federation for the way the episode was handled. However, as regrettable as the events are, it can serve as a learning moment for all.
Here are five ways mental health illnesses have gained the same prominence as physical illnesses.
First, there is no health without mental health. World Health Organization defines Mental health as a state of well-being in which a person realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and is able to contribute to their community.
Certainly by this definition Osaka could not handle the tension that came with attending the press conference. He said so. She mentioned her experience with depression. His health and well being could have deteriorated by attending the tournament press conference. He had the right to withdraw from press conferences and tournaments. Her health outweighs all other concerns.
Second, disclosing your mental health challenge is a strength, not a weakness. This misconception of mental health is ubiquitous.
For example, EpiAFRIC and the Africa Polling Institute interviewed more than 5,000 people in a nationwide mental health survey in Nigeria. Some respondents said they would use coercion and other extreme measures on victims of mental health illness.
For example, 4% said they would turn the victim off while 2% said they would beat the disease from that person. The way the organizers of the French Open responded to Osaka’s cry for help is wrong and should be condemned by all. It was great to see the support extended to Osaka by other Black Elite athletes, Serena Williams and Stephen Curry.
Third, sports tournaments should develop a comprehensive mental health support policy for athletes. This isn’t the first time a prominent athlete has screamed for help tackling a mental health challenge.
According to Athletes for Hope35% of elite professional athletes suffer from a mental health crisis that can manifest as stress, eating disorders, burnout, or depression and anxiety. Too many athletes suffer in silence.
He is being kept in silence because of his achievements and celebrity status. To help combat this silent pandemic, sporting tournaments should develop a comprehensive mental health support policy. Elite athletes like Osaka should have mental health counselors as part of their medical teams. No athlete should suffer from stupor as the consequences can be fatal.
Fourth, we must stop seeing black women as having a higher pain threshold. It is a common misconception that blacks are seen to tolerate pain better than other races. According to Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, 40% of first- and second-year medical students believed that “black people have thicker skin than white people.”
Even during childbirth, black women are sometimes refused painkillers because of this misconception. This leads to verbal and physical abuse of someone dealing with a debilitating health condition. When Osaka said that speaking at the press conference would negatively affect his mental health, he should have believed it. She is battling the pain of depression and needs all the help she can get.
Finally, media outlets must train journalists to write about mental health with empathy. Daily Mail UK Articles, in which the author accuses Osaka of “cynical exploitation of mental health to silence the media,” is harsh and not the way to describe someone who is dealing with depression. Articles like this spoil Osaka’s battle with depression and discourage other athletes from speaking out about the mental health challenges she faces.
Osaka is 23 years old. She should be celebrated for her courage to face depression and be vocal about it at such a young age. I hope she gets all that she needs. I pray that he gets stronger and can play in his next tennis tournament.
Dr. Iphanie McWilliams Nasophore He is a graduate of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University. Ifani is the Director Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch.
© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal Source: Inter Press Service
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