ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Naomi Osaka Centers Her Mental Health Ahead of The French Open, And We Love It!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! I can’t think of a better way to close out the month than by celebrating tennis star, Naomi Osaka. The #2 ranked tennis player and our favorite little sister decided to put her mental health first and skip the post-match press conferences at this year’s French Open. Japan’s legend-in-the making announced her decision via Twitter and Instagram this past Wednesday May 26th. And tongues immediately got to wagging.

Citing the toll news conferences take on players’ emotional well-being, Osaka said, in part, “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one”. Post-game or post-match pressers in any sport can be brutal, especially when the athlete loses. Even I, who doesn’t watch a whole lot of sports programming, have seen athletes reduced to tears by the relentless members of the press.

Osaka, who’s Japanese and Haitian, has certainly done her fair share of press conferences. She’s also no stranger to taking public stands on important issues, including racial equality. Remember at last year’s U. S. Open how she wore 7 different masks, each with the name of a victim of racial violence? She’s not new to this. Lil sis knows how to make a statement and raise awareness.

This current stance will cost her, though. Players can be fined $20,000 for skipping post-match press briefings at Grand Slams, unless they’re injured or physically unable to attend. Naomi earned more than $55 million last year, a record for a female athlete. So that $20,000 fine won’t hurt her as much as it would hurt you or me. Still, she obviously believes her mental well-being is worth it. Good for her.

Osaka’s courageous decision to put her mental health first in such a public way doesn’t just help her, it helps everyone. Because she has such a huge, international platform, her candor about her own mental health care gets people talking, especially Black women. We see ourselves in her. And if she can center her emotional well-being, then so can we.

Sadly, affordable, quality mental health care is out of reach for so many. And that needs to change. Still we must, within our own budgetary limitations, make a real effort to prioritize our mental health. After all, you can’t really put a price on mental wellness, can you?

As for that $20K fine, at the end of Osaka’s social media post on Wednesday, she made this cheeky dig at the tennis establishment, “Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity.” That puts the ball squarely in the French Tennis Federation’s court. (See what I did there?) Hopefully her stance here will prompt the governing bodies of all sports to reexamine the ways in which they support (or don’t) the mental wellness of their athletes.

In the meantime, big ups to Naomi Osaka, not only for her prowess on the court, but for the way she lives her life. She constantly brings awareness to issues which affect Black people and people of color, especially women. Thank you, Naomi. And go get ’em, Sis!

As for you, how do you plan to better prioritize your mental health going forward? Let us know in the comments, and remember, mental health care is health care. So take good care of yours.

#mentalhealthawarenessmonth #mentalhealth #naomiosaka #fenchopen #tennis #blackwomen #blackwomen

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