The US Open will offer athletes mental health support during this year’s tournament, in addition to typical health services, US Open officials said in a statement Tuesday.
Mental health care providers will join sports medicine experts from the Mount Sinai Health System at this year’s US Open in New York, scheduled to begin next week. Players will have access to counseling and “quiet rooms” throughout the tournament, US Open officials said.
Stacey Allaster, chief executive of the US Tennis Association and US Open tournament director, said the “new reality” of the Covid-19 pandemic influenced the tournament’s decision to offer mental health care to athletes.
“The issue of mental health awareness has been brought to the forefront over the course of the global pandemic, as many individuals, players included, have struggled with the stresses and emotions that have come as a result of COVID-19,” Allaster said in a statement.
Among the most vocal athletes when it comes to mental health is Naomi Osaka. The 23-year-old phenom, who won the 2020 US Open, withdrew from the French Open earlier this summer, citing mental health concerns. She’d previously said she wouldn’t participate in press conferences during the tournament to protect her mental health.
Speaking to press at the Western & Southern Open earlier this month, Osaka told a reporter that while she’s typically open to speaking to the media, “there are times where I would say there’s people that I don’t know that well that ask me really, really, sensitive questions,” and answering questions like that after a loss could be challenging. Osaka later began to cry when asked about this month’s deadly earthquake in Haiti, where her father is from.
Another world-class athlete, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, withdrew from several events during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics last month to “focus on [her] mental health.”
Both Osaka and Biles were criticized online for prioritizing their mental health over their athletic performance. Biles later said that her aunt unexpectedly died during the Games and told the media “at the end of the day, you have to be a little bit more mindful of what you say online, because you have no idea of what these athletes are going through as well as (in) their sports.”
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