SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — The spark Naomi Osaka lit earlier this year is turning into a flame. The star tennis player opened up in a Times Magazine article about the experience that lead her to become the face of mental health for athletes.
“It’s still so new to me and I don’t have all the answers,” she said. “I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it.”
This all started in May when Osaka said she needed to miss the French Open press conferences to focus on her mental health. A request she thought would be looked at like any other professional that takes a sick day. Instead the incident ended up costing her a $15,000 fine and a lot of backlash from the industry and fans. To which she responded by retreating from the tournament entirely.
At the end of the day the athlete says everyone has feelings and emotions and there are people that can help, which is a statement that a lot of people can resonate with right now.
In recent years, the topic of mental health became less taboo in-part because of an influx in influential figures that advocate seeking help.
Celebrities like Taraji P Henson, Kristen Bell and Prince William continue to advocate though charities, public appearances and partnering with mental health providers.
Rachele Epp is a therapist in Fort Myers and tells us these open conversations helps relieve anxiety about seeking help.
“When people see famous people, who are willing to talk about their mental health issues and willing to seek help for mental health issues it normalizes the experience,” she said. “All of us at some point in our lives are likely going to experience some form of mental health crisis and it's okay to ask for help.”
Nearly half of American households have someone whose sought out help, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. The survey also says the stigma about mental health is increasingly less of an obstacle.
While more people are looking into getting help, the association says 87 percent of those polled are hindered by lack of insurance coverage specific to mental health.
However, there are resources to find quality and affordable mental health help in Southwest Florida. Epp suggests people go to eppcouseling.com or swflresourcelink.com to explore a range of options for counseling services.
She also gave us the following tips that can help you stay on top of your mental health on a more frequent basis:
- Take care of your body by getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthy.
- Ask family and friends to be a social support system for you. If they aren’t sure how to help you, it’s okay to explain to them what you need.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs because they can lead to self-medicating.
- Volunteer and do community work that can shift your focus from self to others.
If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health emergency, you can call the National Help Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).