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Naomi Osaka French Open withdrawal sparks local mental health discussion

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 17:33:18-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Everyday Zoe Pustilnik pulls up her hair, laces up her shoes and hits the pavement.

“I’ve been running for most of my life,” she said.

The Spanish River High School Junior is on both the cross country and track teams.

“I go to school and then in the afternoon I go to practice,” Pustilnik said. “Usually, I have one or two races a week.”

The physical training usually comes easy, but she admits you can’t run away from stress.

“Recently, I’ve dealt with a lot of anxiety and stress towards racing, Pustilnik said. “Once it gets bad and it starts affecting performance. Then you have to start to seek out some help.”

She says that’s when she started seeing a sports psychologist. Pustilnik said it was inspiring to see tennis champion Naomi Osaka put her mental health first after withdrawing from the French Open.

“Now I know more people are struggling with it and it really affects people, the same way it affects me,” she said.

“They have a lot of pressure to perform, to be the best, to be at the top,” Dr. Martine Senatus said.

Dr. Senatus is a licensed mental health professional. She says the COVID-19 pandemic could be making it worse.

“Where they have been functioning very well in the beginning and then they are triggered,” Dr. Senatus said. “Maybe because of the pandemic and all those stresses on top of the normal stresses, it’s caused them to have a decrease and a loss in function and triggered their mental illness.”

“Everybody needs to know that there’s people out there that can help them, and people are struggling with the same thing,” Pustilnik said.