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Plot twist. Sporting superstars are only human | TICKER VIEWS



Tennis superstar, Naomi Osaka, shocked the world when she withdrew from the French Open, citing mental health struggles.

Should elite athletes be allowed to forfeit press responsibilities?

According to AFL legend and mental health advocate Wayne Schwass, yes. He believes it was a brave move from Osaka, and draws much needed attention to others suffering in silence.

“I applaud her for having the maturity to prioritise her mental health an emotional wellbeing.

It’s a timely reminder, you can have a lot of money, a lot of fame, but it doesn’t mean you’re immune from these kinds of conditions”

Wayne schwass

Osaka’s decision to refuse the traditional press conference came with mixed emotions. The Tennis Federation initially responded with expressions of disappointment. Grand Slam officials went as far as threatening Osaka from future tournaments. There’s no doubt the media and the sponsors are a driving financial force behind the Tennis going ahead. With this, they consistently expect commitment from the players and the media demand comes with the role. Journalists are doing their job, by asking the questions.

But a few questions to consider:

If someone at this level is vulnerable enough to speak up, is criticising that person the right response?

Will shaming Osaka deter others who are suffering, from speaking up?

If Osaka presented with a physical health concern, would she have received a different response

In sports, mental health, is often not given the same recognition or compassion as physical injuries. There are no plaster casts or crutches that can be used to signal mental illness. In a bold move, more athletes at this level are sharing their silent mental health struggles. Many sports now incorporate programs to support players and athletes mental health. If you consider the NFL, the NBA, the AFL, swimming or any other sporting league, there are many reports of athletes struggling with their mental health.

Schwass believes any criticism leads to discrimination… which leads to stigma… and it needs to stop.

“We don’t discriminate against people that have other legitimate health conditions, so we must stop doing it to people that have legitimate mental health conditions.”

Wayne Schwass

Naomi Osaka, a 23-year-old tennis superstar, a young woman, but most of all a human. So, let’s hope she finds peace and health in all aspects of her life. Let’s stand with her in support during the tough times, just as we would stand with her in celebration of another Grand Slam Title.

If you, or anyone you know is struggling, please contact your local helpline.

Holly is an anchor and reporter at Ticker. She's experienced in live reporting, and has previously covered the Covid-19 pandemic on-location. She's passionate about telling stories in business, climate and health.


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