The Blue Jays and Taking Mental Health Seriously


The Toronto Blue Jays have shown that they are taking mental health seriously with their handling of Roberto Osuna


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The game wasn’t going well. It was the bottom of the ninth-inning, two outs and the Kansas City Royals started the rally. What was a 4-1 lead for the Blue Jays ended up becoming a 5-4 win for the Royals. Blue Jays fans all over the continent were screaming “where’s Osuna???!”. Unavailable was the only reply.


By the next morning, more information came and it was unsettling. Roberto Osuna was hurt, but it wasn’t something as tangible and predictable as a physical injury. He was hurting on the inside.


There has been a huge movement in the past few years to end the stigma of mental illness. #BellLetsTalk, an awareness campaign was able to raise $6,295,764.75 for mental health issues this past year and strives to end the stigma around mental health. A stigma it still is however, in the super charged atmosphere that can be professional sports. According to a recent study, members of the sporting community are less likely to report mental health problems and their help-seeking behaviors remain alarmingly low.


It is for this very reason that support for Roberto Osuna has been pouring in from everywhere – even rival fan bases – applauding his bravery at speaking about these issues. It is something Osuna could have chosen to keep private.



Of course it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, and there will always be trolls, but the trend is going towards acceptance and understanding. Being a hero to so many young people, speaking of these issues brings the realization that it can happen to anyone, that mental illness is not a weakness, that seeking help shows strength. Anxiety and depression is an equal opportunity disease, it doesn’t care about how much money you make, your athletic ability or your celebrity.


The stats are out that 1 in 5 will experience mental illness in the course of life. That statistic alone means that nearly everyone will be affected somehow, either themselves or through family and friends. The common misconception with the term
mental illness seems to be that it is always debilitating and life long. The time has come to regard mental illness in the same way physical illness is regarded. Some are recoverable, some need therapy, some need meds, some are life long and managed with treatment.


The thing is, depression and anxiety in the face of no tangible obstacles is a mental illness (treatable yes) that millions suffer from. There should be no shame in calling this spade a spade, but it feels that way sometimes, and a well worded clarification tweet seems to perpetuate the “don’t call it mental illness” attitude that can actually stop those in need from seeking treatment.



There is no one clamoring to call the flu anything but an illness, even in the face of someone dealing with cancer, a much more serious illness. These degrees of seriousness carry over into the mental illness realm. It can vary between something to work on, all the way to a debilitating disorder that is life changing.


Whatever it is that Roberto Osuna is dealing with, the real focus should be that he is dealing with it. He reached out, sought help and support.



Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come, both for Osuna and the #endthestigma movement. The hashtag #Letstalk says it all, and Roberto Osuna is putting that into action.


Just the Facts

  • 49% of people who have suffered from depression or anxiety have not sought help.
  • The definition of mental health is striking a balance in all aspects of one’s life – social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental.
  • Mental illness is the term used to describe many mental disorders. These disorders are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or a combination of) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • Between 80 and 90% of people with mental illness have a significant reduction in symptoms and an improved quality of life with proper treatment.
  • Pro athletes from all disciplines suffer from mental illness in the same numbers as the rest of the population, and concussion issues have exacerbated the problem.





*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0








Catherine Stem

Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.