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Naomi Osaka And Other Personalities Who Have Prioritised Mental Health Over Their Career

After all, you can only focus on your career if your mental health is in check

By Isha Mayer  June 2nd, 2021

‘It’s okay not to be okay.’ While this is slowly becoming acceptable on a global scale, there’s still a lot of work to be done around mental health. For instance, people wanting to take a break from their job or career to take care of their mental well-being is yet to be normalised in a lot of spaces. But there have been a bunch of stars and celebrities coming forward to actively take some time off for a much-needed recuperation, case in point, Naomi Osaka.

Recently, the tennis champion announced that she is withdrawing from the French Open, and will spend an unspecified amount of time away from the court. A few days before this announcement, she had released a statement saying she wouldn’t participate in any of the press events at the ongoing French Open. The reason for this was to put her mental health first. She has seen players breakdown in lockerrooms post losing a match and while they may not show this every time to the public, what they’re going through is so much more than you can imagine.

 

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“People have no regard for athletes’ mental health. This rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds. I’m not going to subject myself to people that doubt me,” Naomi shared in a statement. She shed light on her post-match interactions saying that the whole situation kicks a person when they are down and that she doesn’t understand the reasoning behind it. And now, her decision to withdraw from the tournament is to focus more on her mental health. The sports star revealed she’s been battling depression since the US Open in 2018 and needs time off for self-care. 

 

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While the has sparked a major controversy, many stars from the sports fraternity such as tennis star Serene Williams and NBA champion Kyrie Irwing (who have also expressed their mental health concerns and taken a break from their career) applauded her decision.

Serene Williams
Serena Williams had revealed in her autobiography how she suffered from depression, along with her knee injuries after the Australian Open back in 2006. She had taken a 6-month break during which she received help from a therapist and had said it helped her a lot to get back to her game. She had also suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Alexis. Even though she spent time with her every day, she believed she wasn’t giving her enough time and being a good mother.
Kyrie Irving
Before returning to the court towards the end of January this year, NBA player Kyrie Irving had taken a two-week break for his mental health. “When things become overwhelming in life, you know, you just got to take a step back and realise what’s important. I’m not alone in this. And that’s just a big thing about also mental health, you know, just coming in and being balanced with yourself and then being able to perform. So, with everything going on in the world politically, socially, it’s hard to ignore. I want to make changes daily," he had shared in a statement.

Here are other famous personalities who have taken short breaks or sabbaticals in their career to take time off, recuperate and focus on their mental health.

Nadia Whittome
The youngest lawmaker in the UK and Minister of Parliament recently announced that she would be taking several weeks off as advised by her doctor after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez has been very vocal about her constant battle with mental health. In 2016, she was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease Lupus and was suffering from anxiety, panic attacks and depression during her treatment. The star was on tour that time but left it midway to focus on herself and give her mind and body the self-care it needed. She later went off of social media again in 2018 and returned in 2019 and has been an advocate for mental health ever since.
Sarah Taylor
The former England wicketkeeper had announced her retirement from international cricket in September 2019 to concentrate on her mental health. Her battle with anxiety forced her to prioritise her health and take this call.
Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato is another musician who has gone through constant ups and downs with her mental health. From being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to having an eating disorder and later in 2018, having suffered an overdose, she spent several days in the hospital and later went into treatment that year. Some of her songs, like Sober and It’s Okay Not To Be Okay, are all reflections of her personal experiences and journey. After taking a break for a year and a half, she came back with her stage performance at the 2020 Grammy Awards. Ever since then, Demi has been actively speaking about mental health and working towards de-stigmatising it. She recently came out as non-binary and said this announcement has come after a lot of healing and self-reflective work.
Glen Maxwell
The Australian cricketer had taken a two-month off in October 2019 and left the T20 series with Sri Lanka midway to focus on his mental health. Following his two months of rest and recuperation, Maxwell returned, delivered an outstanding performance, and received the Man of the Match title for Melbourne Stars in the Australian Big Bash League.
Lilly Singh
In 2018, YouTube star and now popular host of her own talk show, Lilly Singh, took a step back from the video platform. She said she was struggling with burnout after posting nonstop videos since 2010 and wasn’t proud of the content she was putting out there. “I am mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted,” she had shared in a video, which is why she decided to take this call to recharge herself.

Photographs: Instagram