SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open. The #2 seed in the tournament posted a message on Twitter Monday announcing the decision.
The 24-year-old was fined by the tournament and faced increasing penalties if she continued to avoid news conferences, events she was contractually obligated to attend.
In her tweet, Osaka said she was suffering from “long bouts of depression” and anxiety.
It’s prompting mixed reactions from those around the world.
Gaan Akers, a licensed professional counselor at Hillside in Savannah, says Osaka’s troubles are becoming more common in the age group she treats, which includes 5- to 25-year-olds.
Akers says it is especially common in young and student athletes.
“One of the things we see all the time is pressure to perform,” said Akers. “It’s something that could be just as stressful as the performance itself. There’s a lot of self-esteem issues that are rolled into being a young person and an athlete.”
Citing an ongoing stigma, Akers says one of the most common misunderstandings about anxiety and depression surrounds its intensity.
“It affects your appetite. It affects your relationship with other people. It affects the way you view yourself and your thought processes,” she explained. “So when people are severely anxious or depressed, they’re having a really hard time thinking straight.”
For that reason, the symptoms of mental illness are often hard to identify.
“Oftentimes, people think of depression as being sad or crying, but oftentimes it’s feeling numb and being apathetic or just not caring about a lot of things,” said Akers.
If you know someone you think is struggling, tell them you care, you have noticed something is wrong, and encourage them to seek help, which may come in the form of professional therapy sessions or even medication.