The disclosure by Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna that he is suffering from anxiety is another positive signal that some athletes feel comfortable enough to publicly discuss such issues, experts say.
Yet despite progress being made in awareness and the ability to openly talk about mental health, it may still be considered a “bold” acknowledgement for the 22-year-old closer to make — especially in the world of sports, where the topic is not widely discussed.
Sport is still an environment where there’s a culture of masculinity, a sense that you need to be tough, said John Cairney, a University of Toronto kinesiology and physical education professor.
“To come forward and to express a vulnerability, even something like an anxiety issue or some form of mental health problem, is a pretty significant thing for an athlete to do,” he said.
Speaking through a team translator on Saturday, Osuna said an issue with anxiety kept him from Friday’s game.
“This has nothing to do with me being on the field, I feel great out there,” said Osuna. “It’s just when I’m out of baseball, when I’m not on the field, that I feel weird and a little bit lost.”
The Blue Jays’ mental performance coach, who travels with the team, has been working with Osuna to overcome his anxiety. By Sunday, Osuna had returned to the mound.
Osuna is certainly not the first sports star to go public with struggles with mental health.
A number of top athletes — including Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, and baseball players like the Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto and Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke — have been open about their own issues.
Still, Cairney said Osuna’s admission is “actually quite remarkable, it’s bold.”
“To come out in this format and talk about having struggles with anxiety, it’s a risky proposition,” he said. “People expect him to be on the field and they expect him to be ready to go.”