If there’s one area that sports and sports media still aren’t equipped to cover properly, it’s mental illness. (There are actually many other areas, too, but let’s focus on this one, specifically.) Conditions like anxiety and depression are still stigmatized by plenty of fans, media members, and even people within the sport; after all, what’s praised more than mental toughness? Can you possess the clutch factor if you also battle anxiety?

Obviously these things aren’t related; you don’t get to the major leagues, or to the NBA, or the NFL, or the pinnacle of any other sport without having the requisite mental discipline and abilities required to succeed within that sport. It just doesn’t happen.

What does happen, though, is that some athletes can face the exact same kinds of mental illness that can affect anyone, at any time. On Friday, Jays closer Roberto Osuna was unavailable to pitch. No exact reason was given at the time, but later, Osuna said he’d been dealing with anxiety issues:

That Osuna, at 22, would be willing to go on record with that is great; most players in prior generations likely would have attempted to cover it up with other things, or been unwilling to seek out help. Osuna is a fantastic closer; he’s sporting a 2.48 ERA this season, with 19 saves already.

Yet what seems likely to happen, sadly, is that some people, in some corners of the sports media world, are going to hold on to this bit of information, and bring it back if, say, Osuna blows a postseason save. Or even down the line, if Osuna is a free agent or a trade target for another team. We have analogues for this. Zack Greinke went through similar issues in Kansas City, which then became a storyline when he went to a bigger market in Los Angeles.

Even some likely well-meaning people don’t get it:

That a young player like Osuna would feel free enough to discuss his medical concerns openly, and treat mental illness as what it is (a health issue) as opposed to what it’s not (a sign of weakness) is very encouraging for the future of athletes. Hopefully new generations of players are able to come through and not feel pressured to hide this exact event.

And moreover, hopefully fans, the media, and teams all continue to grow in how they perceive, cover, and treat the mental health of athletes of all levels.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.