Opinion

Roberto Osuna: A Beacon of Hope for Mental Health

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We often forget that professional athletes are real, live, human beings.

Although they make millions upon millions of dollars and are put up on a pedestal, athletes struggle with the very same issues which “everyday” people do.

That includes mental health issues and that includes professional athletes like Roberto Osuna.



On Friday, he bravely came forward to the Blue Jays a few days ago and let them know he wasn’t quite himself. The organization obliged and Osuna took the next few days off, not seeing action until Sunday afternoon.

For one, I commend Roberto for approaching the team with this; it must not be easy to do what he did and he should be commended for it. It took guts to admit his off-field struggles.

I also appreciate how the Blue Jays coaching staff and front office responded to Osuna coming forward. On Friday night, John Gibbons told the media why Osuna was unavailable: “he wasn’t feeling good” and Gibbons left it at that. Gibbons decided it wasn’t his place to reveal the full story, but Osuna did the very next day.

It wasn’t all that long ago when players might be shunned from coming forward with mental health concerns. In the past, it was viewed as a sign of weakness. Heck, in some circles it still is; but it’s changing for the better.

In the days since, many people have come forward and shared their stories of mental health issues. I can’t say I’ve experienced this first-hand, but many of you have or have someone close to you who struggles with anxiety, depression, panic attacks or any other mental health issue.

Perhaps this will inspire Osuna’s teammates or other players to do something similar; not necessarily address the public and say it outright, but to inform their team of their issues and to seek help.

This is a learning experience for everyone; not just for athletes, fans and onlookers, it’s allowed the dialogue to open up once again and has helped destigmatize mental health issues.

The proof is this very post; this is a Blue Jays blog where I post Osuna & Martin knock-knock GIFS and here we are talking about mental health. It’s something I never anticipated covering here but it’s something I’m glad we get the opportunity to address because it’s important.

That’s the silver lining from this whole experience. It’s an opportunity to learn, open up and talk about something which shouldn’t be taboo anymore.



***

With more money than anybody could ever want, you’d think pro athletes don’t have a care in the world. You may not see it on camera or social media, but they struggle with issues just like everybody else. They are human.

To the untrained eye, they may look like they have it all together, but not everybody does. You never truly know someone’s story until they share it with you. And that’s what Roberto Osuna did; he opened up and the response has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive.

I hope that Roberto Osuna gets well because baseball takes a back seat to whatever is going on in his life. Baseball is just a job; the Blue Jays are secondary. Everything else can wait because his well-being should be priority number one.

Especially on television, I feel like we subconsciously need affirmation from someone famous because then it becomes acceptable for “everyday” people. This may not have been Osuna’s intent when he informed the team of his concerns, but in actuality, he’s become a beacon of hope for mental health.

Osuna has inspired others to come forward with their stories and possibly even seek help when they may have been afraid to do so.

If it’s okay for Roberto Osuna to admit he’s feeling lost, then maybe it’s okay for me to admit I’m feeling lost, too.

If just one of those conversations takes place, then it will have made a difference.

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Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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