US Open Will Offer 'Quiet Rooms' and Provide More Mental Health Resources: 'It Is Essential'
The United States Tennis Association announced a Mental Health Initiative on Tuesday for players competing in the US Open next week.
Part of the initiative includes increased mental health resources, such as licensed mental health providers and quiet rooms.
The USTA said in a statement that the program "will ensure that a holistic approach is taken with all aspects of player health, including mental health."
"We recognize that ensuring the mental health of the players is an area that needed to be addressed, and we are taking formative steps to give athletes the necessary resources to compete at the highest level," USTA CEO and Executive Director Mike Dowse said.
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USTA First Vice President Dr. Brian Hainline said in a statement, "Our goal is to make mental health services as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle — and with no stigma attached."
"We will provide an environment that fosters wellness while providing the necessary resources to readily allow mental health care seeking," he added.
The USTA is working in conjunction with the International Tennis Federation, Women's Tennis Association, and the Association of Tennis Professionals to make sure players at the US Open know how to access the mental health resources.
The organization also worked with Dr. Claudia Reardon, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine's psychiatry department.
"We are working to create an environment that supports overall mental well-being," Reardon said in a statement. "That means taking action on many levels, from dealing with acute emergencies to addressing the root causes of athletes' mental health challenges. It is essential that mental health and well-being be seen as inseparable from overall health."
Naomi Osaka brought conversations about mental health and athletic performance to the forefront earlier this year.
Osaka, 23, withdrew from the French Open in May, citing anxiety surrounding media interviews and confirming that she'd been facing depression since winning the US Open in 2018. The next month, she then withdrew from Wimbledon to take "personal time" before competing at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, where she fell in the third round.
The athlete was met by praise from countless other athletes, including Michael Phelps, who opened up about their own mental health journeys and cheered on her candidness.
Osaka recently told PEOPLE, "I never thought about speaking my mind as something that was difficult. I really just wanted to express my true feelings and be honest with not only myself but to others about struggles. The more we can all be open the more we can help each other be better."
"It has been really nice to feel supported not only by my family, team and brand partners, but also by the fans and fellow athletes," she added. "I was most surprised to hear from so many people that they too had been struggling but were afraid to speak up."
In the USTA announcement Tuesday, Chief Executive of the USTA and US Open Tournament Director Stacey Allaster, said, "The issue of mental health awareness has been brought to the forefront over the course of the global pandemic, as many individuals, players included, have struggled with the stresses and emotions that have come as a result of COVID-19."
"We look forward to seeing how the initiatives implemented at this year's tournament, and in the coming months, make an impact on player wellbeing, and will continue to look for ways to improve and adapt as we move forward," Allaster added.
US Open qualification began Tuesday and the tournament will run from Aug. 30 to Sept. 12 in Flushing, New York.
Ahead of the competition, Osaka told PEOPLE, "I love playing at the US Open as it brings me back to Queens, where I grew up training and it feels like I am always coming back to a place with great memories."
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.