Naomi Osaka Opened Up About Why She Chose Speak Out on Mental Health

"The more we can all be open the more we can help each other be better."

Naomi Osaka stunned sports fans back in May when she chose to forego post-match press at the French Open. At the time, she cited her mental health as the reasoning for not wanting to subject herself to intense press but was then fined $15,000 for her decision. She ultimately withdrew from the Open, but that was just the beginning of a much-needed conversation about how athletes handle mental health.

Now, she’s opening up about why it was so important for her to start the conversation. She told People in an interview published August 25th that she was surprised to learn how many other athletes felt similarly. “I never thought about speaking my mind as something that was difficult,” she said. “I really just wanted to express my true feelings and be honest with not only myself but to others about struggles. The more we can all be open the more we can help each other be better.”

After Osaka withdrew from the French Open, she then also sat out Wimbledon. She did make an appearance at the Tokyo Olympics, and her willingness to be open about mental health opened the door for other athletes to do the same. Gymnast Simone Biles famously sat out several of her Olympic events for her own mental health, even thanking Osaka for standing up for athletes being pushed so hard.

“She is speaking up about mental health, and I think it is really important that athletes put their mental health first because, at the end of the day, that is what is going to determine how well we go out there and compete in whatever sport that is,” Biles told Entertainment Tonight in mid-August.

Now that the conversation’s been started, it seems as though mental health will be put more at the forefront of athletes’ training. Though their physical wellbeing is important to their sports, their mental wellbeing is too.

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