When I heard that Naomi Osaka, the #2 player in the world, withdrew from the French Open on Monday, my heart broke. We learned not only that Osaka has been battling depression since her 2018 U.S. Open win against Serena Williams, but that she deals with anxiety during news conferences which are required by players at Grand Slam tournaments.
I immediately thought of the many students I work with who also face depression and anxiety every single day. Just like Osaka, my students try their best to cope with their mental illness in silence. But the signs are there, and admissions officers pounce on them just as the media pounced on Osaka.
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If the French Open is like a college application and a news conference is like a college interview, then Osaka and millions of students have been expected to perform at the highest level despite their disability. That is an unreasonable request for a young person dealing with mental illness. It leads them down an even darker path.