“Life is a journey,” the 23-year-old athlete wrote in a personal essay for TIME magazine, which was published on Thursday, July 8. “In the past few weeks, my journey took an unexpected path but one that has taught me so much and helped me grow. I learned a couple of key lessons. Lesson one: you can never please everyone. … When I said I needed to miss French Open press conferences to take care of myself mentally, I should have been prepared for what unfolded.”
The four-time Grand Slam singles champ withdrew from the French Open in May shortly after announcing that she wouldn’t be speaking to press during the tournament. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” she wrote in a lengthy Twitter note at the time, revealing she’s “suffered long bouts of depression” for the past three years.
Her decision to step away from the tournament came with another “more enriching” lesson, she wrote in Thursday’s essay. “It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does. The number of messages I received from such a vast cross section of people confirms that. I think we can almost universally agree that each of us is a human being and subject to feelings and emotions,” she added, listing the 39-year-old Suits alum as one of many who sent her support, along with Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry and Novak Djokovic.
“I want to thank everyone who supported me. … I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety,” Osaka explained. “I feel uncomfortable being the spokesperson or face of athlete mental health as it’s still so new to me and I don’t have all the answers. I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s OK to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel.”
The Duchess of Sussex has long been an advocate for mental health awareness, joining forces with Prince Harry, Prince William and Duchess Kate on the royals’ Heads Together initiative before she and Harry, 36, stepped down from their senior roles in March 2020. The move was made permanent earlier this year.
During an appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden, the Duke of Sussex opened up about the pressures he and his wife faced within the palace.
“It was never walking away, it was stepping back rather than stepping down,” he clarified in February. “It was a really difficult environment as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like. It was destroying my mental health.”
The following month, he and the former lifestyle blogger sat down for a candid CBS interview, during which the California native revealed she contemplated suicide while pregnant with son Archie, now 2, in 2019. The couple are also the parents of daughter Lili, who arrived in June.
“I just didn’t see a solution. I would sit up at night, and I was just, like, I don’t understand how all of this is being churned out,” the duchess said in March, reflecting on the vitriol of the British tabloids. “I realized that it was all happening just because I was breathing.”
Meghan added that she was “really ashamed” to talk about her struggles with Harry, who has also been vocal about his mental health since losing his mother, Princess Diana, in 1997. “But I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
Since stepping back from the heightened stress of royal life and settling down stateside, the pair have found their stride — but it hasn’t always been easy.
“I grieve a lot. I mean, I’ve lost my father. I lost a baby. I nearly lost my name. I mean, there’s the loss of identity. But I’m still standing, and my hope for people in the takeaway from this is to know that there’s another side,” Meghan said in March. “To know that life is worth living.”
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).