Sports

US Open and Mental Health Awareness

The US Open stands for the United States Open Tennis Championships which is a hard-court tennis tournament. It is one of the oldest tennis championships which exist in the world today. They were founded in August 1881. The upcoming US Open is going to be held from Mon, Aug 30, 2021, to Sun, Sep 12, 2021.

This year it has been decided that the US Open will provide its participating athletes with mental health services. This will basically include mental health support. This was announced by the US Open officials this Tuesday.

How Will It Work

Basically, the mental health workers will join the medical team. As physical health services are also provided normally in these tournaments. These experts will be from Mount Sinai Health System as this year’s US Open is taking place in New York. The athletes will have full access to these experts and mental health services. They will also have access to “quiet rooms” during the entire tournament. The purpose of these rooms will be to provide a sanctuary from the hustle-bustle of the tournament.

Why Now?

So many of us suffer from mental health issues. And athletes are no different. Their lives are filled with so much pressure and physical and mental exertion on a regular basis. So, if some athletes do not suffer from pre-existing mental conditions, they could still use the help of mental health services to cope with the anxiety or pressure of the tournament.

But despite mental health being an understood factor, no mental health services have been provided until now which makes one wonder, why now? The answer to this is COVID-19. Stacey Allaster who is the chief executive of the US Tennis Association and the US Open director states that this new decision to offer mental health services by the tournament is due to the pandemic.

In Allaster’s own words, "The issue of mental health awareness has been brought to the forefront over the course of the global pandemic, like many individuals, players included, have struggled with the stresses and emotions that have come as a result of COVID-19.”

Naomi Osaka As the Pioneer of Change

Naomi Osaka is a well-known tennis player. She is a 23-year-old who has won the 2020 US Open. She withdrew from the French Open earlier this summer due to mental health concerns. She stated before the tournament that she would not be able to attend the conferences to protect her mental health. Upon this, she was told that she would have to pay a fine to cover up the loss of not attending conferences. After this, she announced that she would not participate altogether.

When Naomi spoke to the media earlier this month she explained that she is normally open to speaking to the media. She continues, “there are times where I would say there are people that I don't know that well that ask me really, really, sensitive questions.” She expresses that answering such questions after a loss is really hard and it can affect the performance of an athlete for years to come as it really affects their mind. During this very same interview, Osaka started to cry when she was asked about the fatal earthquake in Haiti.

Thus it is safe to assume that Naomi Osaka is the pioneer of this change and the reason that such big tournaments like the US Open are recognizing the importance of their athletes’ mental health.

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