Naomi Osaka: depression and resilience

Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open is an incident no one wants to see. A young person struggling with mental illness, at odds with her employer because her actions undermine the business model of professional sports as entertainment.

Every person struggling with mental wellbeing deserves our support – be they female; from an ethnic minority; in their prime – or otherwise.

Stepping back from the particulars, as a culture we need to ask: Why is youth depression on the rise? And why is resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity – on the decline? I wish to consider the latter question, briefly.

I think part of why resilience is on the decline has to do with expectation. Young people have been told they are special and unique; that in their element, they can achieve great things; they believe affirmation and validation is their right and staple. On the whole, young people are not told that most of us will be average and normal. Normal is good, God loves average people, and we need to teach our youth to be comfortable being run-of-the-mill. They ought to expect to lose as much as they win (in life as on the tennis court).

I also sense our youth have been raised in ways that protect them from experiences of loss and disappointment. Every kid gets a ribbon these days. Yet loss and disappointment are an inevitable part of life.

Furthermore, loss is an opportunity. Paul writes “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” And the reason we are not destroyed is that it is not us that has to bounce back. We are flawed vessels. What shines in adversity is “this all-surpassing power [that] is from God and not from us. ” (2 Cor 4:7-9)

Resilience is something you grow. You can only bounce back after you have been knocked. And it just so happens we learn most about trusting God, when we come to the end of ourselves.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister

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