Young Black Athletes Are Launching a Mental Health Revolution

By Briasia Russ

Black athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles are prioritizing their mental health. After being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome and suffering from depression, anxiety and insomnia, Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel publicly spoke about stepping back and taking a break. 

As reported by NBC, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka decided to step back from the Wimbledon for her mental health. Gymnast Simone Biles publicly spoke about seeing a psychologist and taking medication for anxiety. Olympic runner Noah Lyles advocates for mental health care and shared on social media that he takes anti-depressant medication.  

NBC reports that although the mentioned health issues aren’t uncommon among Black athletes, they are uncommon in the professional sports world. Black athletes’ decision to take a step back and prioritize their mental health has resulted in criticism from spectators.  

It has also become the new normal for Black athletes to share their breaks with the world. Le’Roy Reese, a psychiatry and behavioral science professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine agrees that Black athletes have taken control of their mental health.  

“Athletes are increasingly taking ownership of their personal narrative and making their own choices about sharing that personal narrative,” Reese said. “There is now a sense of agency among professional athletes that we have not seen before with regard to their voices.” 

If you or someone you know is struggling or needs someone to talk to, resources are available for you here 

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