Naomi Osaka Reflects On Her Mental Health Break: You Can Never Please Everyone

Naomi Osaka wrote an essay for Time in which she discussed the “key lessons” she has learned since saying publicly that she was prioritizing her mental health.

The four-time Grand Slam champion wrote in the piece, which was published Thursday, that her journey took “an unexpected path” and that she learned a lot after openly discussing her mental health.

“Lesson one: you can never please everyone,” Osaka wrote. “The world is as divided now as I can remember in my short 23 years. Issues that are so obvious to me at face value, like wearing a mask in a pandemic or kneeling to show support for anti-racism, are ferociously contested.”

“So, when I said I needed to miss French Open press conferences to take care of myself mentally, I should have been prepared for what unfolded,” she added. 

Osaka announced in May that she would not be doing any press at the French Open in order to protect her mental health. She later withdrew from the tournament entirely, and weeks later decided to pull out of Wimbledon as well.

The athlete discussed her struggles with mental health in a statement posted to her Instagram in late May, writing that she had suffered “long bouts of depression” since the U.S. Open in 2018. 

Many public figures commended her for her courage to openly discuss her mental health struggles and for demonstrating the importance of exercising self-care. 

“Proud of you,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted at the time. 

Osaka received a number of messages from people sharing their own struggles with their mental health, she said in her Time essay.

“It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does,” she wrote. 

She made it clear that her comments about self-care were “never about the press” and that she had enjoyed an “amazing relationship with media.” However, she said she hoped the press conference format could be improved, perhaps to allow athletes the “right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions.”

“In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it’s not habitual,” she said. 

Osaka said she could “not be more excited to play” at the Tokyo Olympics, which are set to begin later this month. 

For its latest issue, which goes on sale Friday, Time is featuring four different athletes on its covers: Osaka, track-and-field star Allyson Felix, WNBA player Sue Bird and Paralympic triathlete Susana Rodríguez. 

The first trailer for a Netflix documentary series about Osaka, “Naomi Osaka,” was released on Wednesday. The series, which hits the streaming service on July 16, was released in association with Uninterrupted, a media company and brand co-founded by LeBron James. Osaka said last year that the docuseries “won’t look like a traditional sports documentary.” 

Read Osaka’s entire Time essay here.

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