The stigma around the mental health of professional athletes is starting to break. The sports world was watching when, in early June, world-ranked tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after being fined for choosing to cancel her press obligations during the Roland Garros tournament, citing struggles with depression and anxiety as the reason. An entire community of sports fans, media personalities, athletes, and celebrities came to Osaka’s aid, supporting her and commending her for prioritizing her mental health.
Even though Osaka’s story made headlines and garnered worldwide support, this story didn’t make as much of a splash in the media as Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the individual all-around competition during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, saying she needed to focus on her mental health and well-being. Though a vast majority of people defended and praised Biles for making this difficult decision, she also garnered a lot of negative attention from a lot of people claiming that choosing not to compete was selfish and weak.
Lane Johnson Back
Clearly there is still a lot of controversy surrounding the subject of professional athletes’ mental health and well-being, and while that is sad, the stigma around the subject is beginning to break, thanks to the growing willingness of athletes to speak up. Biles and Osaka are both influential female athletes who have been increasingly sharing about their mental health problems, and now, Lane Johnson is too.
Johnson, a right tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, has missed the past three games of the season due to some mental health struggles. He was placed on the inactive list late ahead of the Eagles’ Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles cited the reason of Johnson’s extended absence as “personal issues,” but earlier on Monday, Johnson released a statement on his Twitter to announce his return to the Eagles’ active roster and to address the nature of his personal issues.
“I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and support over the last two weeks,”
“I appreciate the positive notes and messages as I’ve worked hard to restore my personal life. Depression and anxiety are things I’ve dealt with for a long time and have kept hidden from my friends and family.”
“If you’re reading this and struggling, please know that you are not alone. I am excited to re-join my teammates and coaches. I’m grateful for the entire Eagles community and look forward to continuing to play in front of the best fans in the world!”
The right tackle received a lot of support from his friends, family, and teammates. Head coach Nick Sirianna said he supported Johnson’s decision fully.
“We just want our players to know that we’re all here to support them at any time,”
“Anything they’re going through, good, bad and that’s what a team does. And that’s what we do here in this organization.”
Johnson is no stranger to speaking up about his struggles, as he shared a little bit about his anxiety during the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning season in 2017.
There is certainly a huge stigma surrounding mental health in both the athletic community and especially among men, so it’s great to see Johnson, a famous football player, speaking so candidly about his issues and putting his mental well-being first. It’s also wonderful to see his teammates and coaches supporting him unconditionally.
I love seeing professional athletes, especially male ones, become open with talking about mental health, especially since I feel like athletes are mostly seen as performers instead of actual people with physical struggles and mental struggles. Professional athletes are under a lot of strain to perform well, be at their best all the time, and be good role models, and it is a lot of responsibility. It’s wonderful and beneficial to society and the sports community to see athletes speak up and be open about their struggles and prioritizing their mental health over their athletic performance. Thank you, Lane Johnson. We’re glad you’re back.
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