20 February 2021
I like to think that my credentials as a mental health advocate are pretty good. I was responsible for the NSW Parliamentary Select Committee of Inquiry into Mental Health in December 2001 which reported in 2003. The result of this inquiry was an increase in the mental health budget in the following year of $320 million, a new accounting system so that the money could not be transferred by hospital administrations to other areas, and publicity which led to a similar Senate Inquiry in Canberra. This reported in 2006 and led to psychologists being put on Medicare. (Not that my contribution was noticed by the Parliamentary press gallery).
One of the elements of recognising mental health is having it treated the same as physical health.
But I am also a tennis fan, not a tragic, but a fan. In the quarter finals of the Australian Open, Ash Barty, Australia’s favourite and No 1 seed was eliminated by Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. This might not be remarkable were it not for the fact that the game had Barty winning easily until Muchova took a 10 minute medical timeout. After this, the game and momentum swung totally Muchova’s way and she won. Muchova admitted that she wasn’t injured, she just took time off to get her head together. Obviously she did that, and Barty was sufficiently disconcerted to lose the match. The public waited the 10 minutes and the TV filled the break as usual.
Barty was magnanimous in defeat, saying that Muchova had the right to take a medical break, but one has to ask whether taking a 10 minute break to compose one’s head if one is not doing well in a match will become the new norm Hey, there is no rule against it, and now a precedent for it!
It will be hard for a tournament referee to say to a player, ‘I do not accept you injury, get back on and play’, but what is the alternative? This is a bad precedent. This is not mental illness. Any suggestions how it should be dealt with?