Anxiety Sidelines Baseball Player Roberto Osuna: A Pitch for Mental Health

Updated on June 27, 2017
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I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

A Pitch For Mental Health

Roberto Osuna, the 22-year-old relief pitcher who has come to be known as the Toronto Blue Jays' closer, has been sidelined due to concerns about his own mental health.

Manager John Gibbons hasn't even batted an eyelash, explaining that Osuna just "wasn't feeling well."

Osuna's experience is certainly not a novel one for sports stars. Olympian Clara Hughes, who competed and medalled in both the summer and winter games, admitted to coping with depression following the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

“We have been conditioned that we should be ashamed to have any shape or form of mental illness,” she said, and she's not wrong.

She has since gone on to become one of Canada's most recognizable faces of mental health, speaking every year about coping with depression and helping to promote the Bell Let's Talk program.

Talk to any one of the roughly 20 percent of Canadians currently coping with a mental illness of any stripe, and they will probably tell you that they'd just as soon not have anyone know they were struggling at all. The media exposure surrounding Osuna's recent admission to dealing with anxiety is surprising, and it leads to some interesting questions.

Why is it that very few bosses and colleagues are as understanding as Jay's manager Gibbons appears to be? Why do businesses appear to pay only lip service to the notion of supporting those who might be struggling with mental health?

Osuna admitted that physically, he feels fine.

“This has nothing to do with me being on the field,” Osuna said. “I feel great out there. It’s just when I’m not on the field that I feel weird and a little bit lost. I wish I knew how to get out of this. We’re working on it. We’re trying to find ways to make me feel better. But, to be honest, I just don’t know."

Sounds like just about anyone dealing with an anxiety diagnosis that they're trying to wrap their heads around.

Osuna Working On Returning


Working On Greater Understanding

Mental health is something that we all have. Hell, a good sense of mental health is something that we all need in order to successfully survive our daily lives. News about Osuna's anxiety is an important reminder that mental health challenges are things that need to be discussed openly in order to remove the stigma surrounding it.

The media has not helped in this regard. Certainly, the media regularly gets raked over the coals because the images that are conveyed of those who deal with mental health challenges have not been positive ones. We all deal with periods where we struggle with depression, anxiety or worse, but the imagery that comes from the media about mental health have often been the target of much criticism, and rightfully so.

Kevin Frankish of Breakfast Television in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has long been coping with panic attacks, a more extreme form of anxiety. He said he had no real recognizable trigger for the panic, and that he didn't understand what it was when it first occurred. In 2006, he actually reported to his viewers what he'd been dealing with, as he would start the show and then it seemed as though he had disappeared for the rest of the broadcast; in reality, he was dealing with the panic attacks.

It was news that took his viewership by surprise, but one that was resoundingly embraced by his employers and his viewers alike. It would appear that Osuna is receiving similar support, as reportedly, members of the coaching staff are working with Osuna so that he can take the mound once again.

Osuna seemed equally flummoxed as to why he was struggling with his own mental health situation, but unlike so many who are struggling with mental health challenges, he's got a great deal of support that's coming his way, whether it's from the coaching staff or other medical people. The really cool thing is that the Jays are doing something that should be done in any workforce without any sort of question.

I'm not saying understanding of depression or anxiety should be given blindly without any sort of questions, but employers in more traditional lines of employment should really consider offering their students more support and stability. What I am saying is that now we have to self-advocate more than we might otherwise be comfortable doing.

Employers need to take a page from the Jays' playbook and offer their employees appropriate support for their mental health conditions that they might struggle with. To do so will only help their workforce become stronger in the long run.

Kevin Frankish


Roberto Osuna On Anxiety

ABC's Dan Harris - On Air Panic Attack

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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