When Naomi Osaka announced that she would not be competing in the French Open, she opened up about her struggles with anxiety and depression.
In doing so, she gave a voice to the tens of millions of people who struggle with these mental health issues, like me.
Maybe you are also struggling with anxiety or depression but have obligations to fulfill or feel torn between societal expectations and self-preservation. Maybe your employer is not supportive.
As this New York Times article notes, people of color may shoulder a disproportionate amount of emotional stress both in and outside of the workplace. Women are at least twice as likely to have had depression as men, according to federal data. And Black people are less likely than non-Hispanic white people to receive treatment for depression or prescription medications for mental health.
Many employers offer employee assistance programs that have services, including short-term counseling from licensed therapists or referrals to outside experts who can help with a specific mental health issue. (These services are often touted as confidential, but even so, some employees feel uncomfortable using them.) I didn’t. I didn’t say a word. I was afraid of the stigma.
I work for myself now because I have not yet found an employer that provides a mentally healthy workplace.
When Naomi stood up for herself, she helped to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues, but she is not the average person fighting a battle with anxiety or depression. Her voice does help show that mental health should be treated like a normal health issue.
Employers really do have a responsibility to helping their employees struggling with a mental health issue. Oftentimes the employer doesn’t realize there is an issue because it is hidden by negative performance or work absences at first. My employer knew I was struggling and still chose to cut ties with me at a time when doing so could have been catastrophic for me.
It’s not all work and productivity at the end of the day – especially after the catalysmic workplace shifts that happened during the pandemic.
There is much more that can be done to ensure that employees don’t fall through the cracks and that companies prioritize mental health and wellness.
Naomi’s story helps to shine a spotlight on mental health, which we really need – especially in the legal industry. She showed that it’s not all about career advancement and endorsements.
Your mental health matters; it’s critical for success in every area of your life. One in four people are struggling right now with a mental health issue and although Mental Health Awareness Month is technically over, we should be spreading awareness every day that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes and protecting yourself and boundaries are crucial.