Why Ian Thorpe wants you to swim for mental health

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Features and Health Editor
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Ian Thorpe sits down with Yahoo Lifestyle to talk mental health. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle/Getty
Ian Thorpe sits down with Yahoo Lifestyle to talk mental health. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle/Getty

Olympic champion and swimming great Ian Thorpe is speaking openly about his battle with mental health to help others dealing with similar issues.

The 36-year-old hopes that by talking about how he faces his own depression, and the strategies he’s learnt to cope with it, he can show others, especially young Australians, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’ve been someone who has gone through mental health challenges at different times and realising that there is a light at the end of that tunnel and to be able to send a message to young people that ‘you might have these times that you do struggle’, but there is a way of getting out of that,” Ian tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

The five-time gold medal winner, who is a patron of frontline youth service ReachOut, is this month supporting Laps for Life – a swimming challenge during March that aims to help raise awareness of mental health issues and the support available to those struggling.

ReachOut has been changing the way people access help since launching as the world’s first online mental health service nearly 20 years ago.

“I wanted to become involved with [Laps for Life] and asked if I could,” Ian tells us. “Reach Out does so many things for so many different issues, whether it’s things for LGBTIQ kids, or kids struggling with exam pressures, anxiety, depression, to people struggling with issues like suicide.”

Ian Thorpe hopes his story and laps for life will help others battling similar feelings. Photo: Getty
Ian Thorpe hopes his story and laps for life will help others battling similar feelings. Photo: Getty

Looking back at his own mental health journey, Ian says that for him, swimming was a sort of meditation and helped him to clear his mind. He hopes it will do the same for anyone wanting to get involved in the initiative.

“Being able to swim and the repetition that comes with that, or the responsibility of being able to turn up with a friend and being able to participate in something, to work towards a goal is really good for your mental health,” he says.

“And for me looking at what I did in the pool, lap after lap this reputation was so healthy for me, it let my mind go, and when I got out, I may have been exhausted but I got out with none of the worries that I had when going in there. Training for me was like a mediation.”

Ian says swimming was something that helped him cope. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle
Ian says swimming was something that helped him cope. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

While Ian knows he has made great progress over the past years, he admits depression does sometimes still rear its ugly head. But he has learnt how to cope and wants others to know there is a way.

“I look at my life and I look at the opportunities and look at what I can do, and most days I feel blessed that I can do all of those things. And a couple of days I don’t feel that way. And that’s ok as well,” he says.

“Realising that you’re not the only one that’s going through that particular struggle is important. And it also helps to normalise what you’re going through and for you to look at it like a health problem that pops up for time to time.

“And if you consider it in that manner you have a little bit more control over what you’re going through. And in realising that you can set yourself up with better strategies to improve your wellbeing.”

Get involved at lapsforlife.com.au.

If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

If you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression contact Beyond Blue, Batyr or PANDA for support.

Got a story tip? Send it to lifestyle.tips@verizonmedia.com

Want more lifestyle and celebrity news? Follow Yahoo Lifestyle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Or sign up to our daily newsletter here.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting