Venus Williams came to the defense of fellow tennis icon Naomi Osaka and Olympic gymnastics legend Simone Biles after both athletes took temporary hiatuses from their respective sports due to debilitating anxiety.
Writing an op-ed piece for The New York Times, the 41-year-old hardcourt legend praises Osaka, Biles and all-time Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for raising awareness about the need to attend to your mental health.
Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam tennis winner, said it is “frustrating” to learn that only about half of those suffering from mental illness seek help.
“As we confront the devastating impact of the pandemic, support for our mental health is more urgent than ever,” Williams penned. “I would imagine that if you’re reading this column, you know someone who has or is struggling emotionally. I know I do.”
Despite the fact that she is a world-class and globally famous athlete with millions in the bank, she is still susceptible to the things that ail the rank-and-file. “I actually don’t think I’m that different from everyone else. All of us face mental health challenges resulting from the inevitable setbacks and uncertainties of life.”
The older sister of Serena Williams is collaborating with the therapy service BetterHelp and the Women’s Tennis Association. Together, they are providing $2 million toward free therapy to folks who supports efforts to “remove associations of shame attached to mental illness.”
“I am excited to lend my voice to destigmatizing mental illness, and it starts here: Let’s show up for ourselves and for each other and recognize what it takes to be truly strong,” Williams wrote.