As the pandemic still ravages through most of the world, the unprecedented global phenomena has brought the world to its collective knees. One of the greatest health crises this world has seen since polio and the bubonic plague, this health crisis was unique in one specific way and one way that had more implications than initially considered. Today’s society is different from the one you juxtapose in textbooks. America and most of the world are suffering from effects of mental ailments, something that has been easily dismissed, disregarded, and stigmatized since the beginning of the time. Athletes are no different from the deafening noise these challenges cause, but rather, athletes have these dark thoughts which often haunt them more than their performing in their respective sports ever could.
The turning point of the stigma around mental health starts from the Australian superstar Liz Cambage whose honesty, transparency, and vulnerability led to the pendulum swinging in the other direction. Her very vocal bouts with public struggles with balancing her seemingly turbulent career led her to become the advocate for people from all walks of life who also have those demons.
Cambage still has these struggles and her bravery led to a tremendous outpouring from members of the WNBA, the Australian national team and her teammates. Not long after her testimony, Kevin Love, the NBA All Star forward from the Cleveland Cavaliers said he too struggled with mental health crises, and that he felt like he could not be vocal about such things. Cambage’s bravery led to him founding his own mental health charity, the Kevin Love Fund. A charity dedicated its efforts to prioritizing physical and mental wellness, these endeavors saw Love receive a humanitarian award.
Another popular athlete that comes to mind when pondering the change of this landscape in America is tennis sensation Naomi Osaka. Osaka’s meteoric rise started when she beat Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open and shortly after Osaka became the best player in the world, making all of Haiti and Japan proud of her elegance on the court. A very shy and well-mannered soft-spoken young woman, with the big win came the cameras, the notoriety and the spotlight, something Osaka was not fully prepared for. This led to her having complex feelings, ideals and emotions about her own health and whether not the pressure that came with sponsorships, and the target on her back as other players on the tour, hoping to emulate her success was worth her own happiness. A week before the 2021 French Open Osaka announced she would no longer be attending press conferences. This decision had seismic proportions, she chose to drop out of the tournament and take an extended break from playing tennis professionally until further notice.
Osaka, Love, and Cambage are proof that even the world is riddled with all the ingredients to further heighten the possible destruction that a lack of consideration for one’s own well being can have on your professional and personal life. One day the world will see our differences are common occurrences and and our pain are similar tales that paint identical canvases in a language that is indigenous
to all. If it takes a pandemic to regain our humanity, maybe one day we will all recompense that it is natural to feel a fleeting moment of insanity.