Dominic Thiem says mental health is as important as physical health, hopes to help end the stigma associated with mental illness

Dominic Thiem at the 2021 Australian Open
Dominic Thiem at the 2021 Australian Open
Namit Kumar

Dominic Thiem recently made an appearance on the Tennis United series, where he explained how mental health issues often get ignored in professional sport. The Austrian believes that for an athlete mental health is just as important as physical wellbeing.

Thiem has had plenty of struggles with mental problems during his career. The Austrian suffered from a lack of motivation and other issues following his US Open triumph last year that caused a drastic dip in his performance this season.

When asked whether there's a kind of stigma related to mental health issues in sport, Thiem said it remains a "difficult topic" to talk about. However, he believes the situation has been improving in recent times.

"Probably, yes," Thiem said. "But I think it's getting better and better. I guess that for many athletes, it's still a difficult topic and it shouldn't be. I think mental health is as important as physical health just because you can't see what's going on in your brain, or in your head it doesn't mean that everything is good up there."
"We are feeling same like other people, and all other people are going through difficulties, both in in their profession and in their private life, and in general," he added.
Hey everybody! It´s tough to digest yesterday’s early loss at one of my favorite tournaments! To be honest – it was just not good enough! Some percents are missing in every part of my game. Now it is essential to learn from this defeat and to get back to work straight away.

Thiem further added that it should be easier for tennis players, and athletes in general, to talk about issues that affect their mental wellbeing.

"Nobody is always happy or always feeling good," he said. "Just because we're travelling the world, we're in the nicest cities, and playing, not now, but usually in front of 10000 people, it doesn't mean that we're day in day out happy. I think it should be easier to say that and to speak about it.
"I think that athletes can be good role models for other people. And I think it should be as easy to talk about mental issues as about physical problems," Thiem added.

The 28-year-old said that players do not find it difficult to explain physical problems they suffer during the course of a season. However, they remain tight-lipped when it comes to issues with mental health.

"Like, if you can't compete for some weeks because you're injured with your knee or with your elbow, you also say it openly to the press and to everybody. But if you're struggling with motivation, or in your private life, or mentally in general, nobody tells it openly, maybe it should change," he said.

It helped when I started talking about my mental health openly in the press: Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem at the 2020 Australian Open
Dominic Thiem at the 2020 Australian Open

Over the course of the interaction, Dominic Thiem threw light on the struggles he faced in the immediate aftermath of his maiden Grand Slam victory at Flushing Meadows last year.

While many believed that getting the Grand Slam monkey off his back would allow Thiem to relax and raise his game, the Austrian asserted it was tough to find new goals to focus on.

"After the US Open wasn't an easy period as I was thinking, and probably everybody else was thinking," Thiem said. "Everybody was looking at that and expecting probably that I'm playing free, and continue winning. But for me, it was really different, to achieve finally such a huge goal, basically my No. 1 goal, and one of the biggest dreams of my life."
"And then, few weeks or few months after I realised that something's changed, and it's not continuing like before."

The 28-year-old said taking some time off and speaking openly about his problems helped him find his footing once again.

"After Australia, I took the time off, got a bit away from tennis, found some new motivation, and decided to talk more open about it in press. And it definitely helped me," Dominic Thiem said.
Edited by Arvind Sriram
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