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Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps encourage athletes to take care of their mental health at US Open forum

Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps join US Open forum on mental health & sports
Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps join US Open forum on mental health & sports 02:03

NEW YORK -- Two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka was back at the Open on Wednesday but not as a player.

She joined another champion for a panel on mental health and sports.

When Osaka stepped back from playing in 2021, she stepped up for athletes everywhere.

"For me, coming back here, it means a lot. This room in particular, there were some tears shed, a lot," Osaka said Wednesday.

She's not playing this year, but she was at the US Open for a discussion on mental health alongside fellow advocates Olympian Michael Phelps and surgeon general Dr. Vivak Murthy.

"If we just kind of approach our lives and other people with a little bit more grace and forgiveness, extend the kind of support that they need, recognizing that a lot of people are suffering in silence, I think we can make big steps forward in terms of improving mental health and well-being and shifting the culture to be more open about it as well," Murthy said.

Osaka and Phelps were part of a growing segment of athletes who have reframed the narrative of the unflappable competitor and replaced it with a more human figure not immune to anxiety.

"Just getting things out, right? For me, it's always trying to get things out in the open 'cause the more you're carrying it, the heavier that backpack gets on your back," Phelps said.

"Every person is unique in this world and that's something that no one can take away, and you just -- I don't want to be corny, but like, you just got appreciate that and know that you're special, and I don't think people say that enough," Osaka said.

Osaka started a conversation that extended beyond tennis and beyond the sports arena all the way into our daily lives -- that prioritizing mental health is not just OK, but necessary.

If you or someone you know is struggling, there is always help available. You can dial 988 to call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Trained counselors are available 24/7.

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