Mental Health & Women in Sports

by Kianna Goss

For the good of all, let’s normalize the topic of
mental health in athletics.

Oftentimes, as individuals, we have a million things that keep us busy. Sometimes we simply neglect our mental well-being, but many may fear being judged when opening up about their mental health.

On May 31, 2021, Japanese professional tennis player Naomi Osaka shared about her years of dealing with depression and anxiety on her Instagram account. She sparked a mental health discussion by openly stating that she would take some time away from the tennis court.

According to Matthew Futterman of the New York Times, this decision resulted in Osaka being fined $15,000 by the French Open’s tournament referee and leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments. She also was threatened to be expelled from the French Open, which is a tennis tournament held for two weeks in Paris, France.

Although there was little support from the leaders of the tournament, other athletes stood with Osaka. Tennis player Serena Williams mentioned that she understands Osaka’s anxiety when doing post-match press conferences and, according to Jordan Mendoza of USA Today, she extended her support. Other athletes such as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard joined in the support of Osaka on social media, applauding her courage and agreeing with her decision of withdrawing from the tournament.

This is not the first time women’s mental health has been neglected in sports. For example, writer Jessica Bennett of Ebony wrote in 2018 that gymnast Simone Biles revealed on ABC’s Good Morning America that she takes anti-anxiety medication and attends therapy. Biles received backlash after openly discussing her state of well-being. So many women of color deal with the battle of mental health, and the pressure of bringing it up to the public can be intense.

Mental health should be taken seriously in athletics because athletes deal with everyday struggles, too. In support of mental health in sports, several organizations offer help. One organization is known as Athletes for Hope, whose goal is to educate, encourage, and assist athletes’ efforts to engage in charitable causes. This organization gives athletes the tools for mental health resources and a space to share their mental health journey. Another organization that helps athletes is Beyond Sport, promoting social change in sports by having forums with leaders in sports, health care, and work in social change. The goal is to promote mental health through sports in the community.

Individuals can also have a positive impact. Social media is a great tool to start up a conversation, especially in support of someone taking time off to focus on their mental wellbeing. If you are an athlete and notice a lack of support in your athletic department when it comes to this issue, share your story and create change.

About Kianna Goss

Kianna Goss is a junior at Bradley University, majoring in journalism with a double minor in sociology and advertising with public relations. Community involvement requires the use of one’s voice; in Goss’s case, her voice, which she expresses through writing, is one of the strongest platforms she has. Being a Black woman, Goss often writes to give a voice to the Black community. In doing so, she gains control over a media narrative that portrays the Black community in a negative way. As a writer who expresses herself through many different forms expressions, she has written poetry, blogs, newspaper articles, and opinion pieces. She is always looking for more opportunities to grow as a writer and personally. Goss is involved in many organizations at Bradley University. She is currently the marketing/ communications director for Bradley’s Communication Agency, a peer mentor for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a writer for the student newspaper The Bradley Scout, and a caller at the Bradley Fund. Being able to explore her creativity is what Goss loves most about Bradley. The Communications department is molding her into the journalist she aspire to be.

About Adrien Vozenilek

Adrien Vozenilek is a senior at Peoria Notre Dame High School. Currently, their focus is portraying family history and their Italian heritage through 2D works centered around heirlooms. Adrien will be a freshman at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and plans to become an art therapist for LGBTQ+ youth.