Osaka’s withdrawal from French Open puts a spotlight on workplace mental health

Andy Uhler Jun 3, 2021
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Julian Finney/Getty Images

Osaka’s withdrawal from French Open puts a spotlight on workplace mental health

Andy Uhler Jun 3, 2021
Heard on:
Julian Finney/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Tennis star Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from the French Open surprised a lot of people. She wasn’t physically injured but said the press obligations gave her anxiety, and bowed out. Osaka also said she has “suffered long bouts of depression.” Her decision has put a renewed focus on mental health and the workplace.

When someone suffers from a mental health issue, it’s what people like Peter Smith, a senior scientist at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto, call an “invisible condition,” and many employers don’t know how to handle it.

“Workplaces do tend to struggle with thinking about how to accommodate people with mental health conditions,” Smith said. “And I think the advice is you need to involve them in the process.”

He said employers need to put practices in place that allow for employees to be candid about mental health issues. Smith said star athletes talking about mental health might help workers feel more comfortable bringing up those issues, too.

But some in the sports world said Osaka owed it to the women’s game to speak to the press despite her anxiety. Kavitha Davidson, a sports writer at The Athletic, disagrees. “The only obligations that I think Naomi Osaka should have to the game are by playing it as best as she can, because that is the best way to actually grow this game,” Davidson said.

She said Osaka’s critics need to recognize that even extremely successful athletes are human beings.

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