FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM AUGUST 26, 2021 • THE QUEENS COURIER 27
Becoming your own champion starts
with a reality check of your mental health
BY ANNIKA T.
In a few short
weeks, Queens will
resume its annual tradition
the world’s best tennis
players and the sport’s enthusiasts to
Flushing Meadows Corona Park. All eyes
will undoubtedly be on Naomi Osaka,
who over the last few months has received
both praise and criticism for her decision
to withdraw from the French Open, citing
mental health reasons.
Up until this pivotal moment, Osaka
had used her global platform to address
systemic racism and police brutality. She
was intentional on using her platform
to “say their names” during the 2020
tennis season when she wore protective
face masks bearing the names of victims
like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and
letters & comments
Osaka’s decision to set boundaries in
an eff ort to protect her mental wellbeing
has had a wide-ranging positive
impact. Athletes like Kyrie Irving and
Michael Phelps came to her defense
for shedding much-needed light on the
mental health strains they endure during
competition as well as press conferences
with journalists. People from all
walks of life were also able to relate to
her, particularly those who experienced
mental health strains exacerbated by the
Th e cultural impact of Osaka’s decision
is very profound. As a Japanese-
Haitian athlete, she’s helping de-stigmatize
discussions around mental health in
Black American, Caribbean and countless
cultures throughout the world where
acknowledging issues like depression
and anxiety, and seeking help, are taboo.
While most people are familiar with
Wimbledon, the U.S. Open is one of several
dozen tournaments in which tennis
players compete. Th is results in an
incredible amount of pressure on tennis
players to excel on the court, and still
reserve enough mental energy to speak
with reporters about their performance
shortly aft er each match — win or lose.
I grew up during a time when male
tennis players were given a pass for
unruly and unsportsmanlike behavior
on the court. Male athletes in every sport
are still allowed to have a bad day and
not suff er the level of scrutiny that Osaka
has faced for prioritizing her mental
health and empowering others to do the
same. We were once again reminded of
the mental health toll athletes endure
when Simone Biles temporarily withdrew
from the Tokyo Olympics because
she didn’t realize just how stressful the
competition was becoming.
Athletes are not robots, and their sole
purpose is not just to “shut up and dribble”
— or hit a ball with their racket.
Osaka is human, and like many of us, she
is trying to fi gure out how to overcome
diffi cult situations. Resilience is learning
that even though we face adversities,
we are able to develop strategies that
will allow us to combat those adversities,
cope and become stronger individuals.
A key aspect of building resilience is
normalizing mental health discussions.
Th is is the best way to help individuals
recognize that caring for mental health
is the same as receiving care for a physical
So when the U.S. Open starts, I’ll be
rooting for Naomi Osaka, and challenging
others with as big a platform as hers
to be agents of change in the fi ght to prioritize
Annika T. D’Andrea is the founder and
CEO of Tender Loving Family Inc., a
New York state-licensed home health care
organization, and TLC Virtual Resiliency,
a group-based, virtual, custom wellness
and resiliency-building program. To learn
more, visit tlcvirtualresiliency.com.
THE TRUE MEANING
Oft en people speak to those who lost a
loved one about “closure.” What they are
actually stating is it’s time to get past the
loss or that they no longer wish to hear
of the pain that is carried by the survivor.
Closure is for others. It is a byword for
letting the past be in the past. If not forgotten,
then something to lock up and
only occasionally thought about. The
person burdened by the death of a loved
one has no idea how to shut the door
and walk away from the devastation that
death of another has brought to them.
Th ose so burdened can live a life that is
current or be cemented in the past. Th ose
who are fortunate do not come to closure,
rather to acceptance. Th ey acknowledge
the door will never open to the deceased
walking back in. Yet they do “accept” living
with the memories of the departed while
knowing that they, too, have a life to live.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, at 3 p.m., St.
Michael’s Cemetery will conduct a memorial
service for the fi rst responders of the
9/11 attacks and to the many who have lost
a loved one to COVID-19.
St. Michael’s responded to the Sept. 11
attacks and was there for so many of our
community members, helping them confront
the awful toll taken by the pandemic.
St. Michael’s is open to the public on
Sept. 11, 2021. An orchestra will play
music that will represent the memorial
honoring and remembering all we have
Ed Horn, director of St.
A SUNFLOWER GROWS
IN MIDDLE VILLAGE
// PHOTO BY EMMA
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