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Victoria Azarenka expands on mental health conversation with Jeffrey Sparr on Think About It podcast
Azarenka welcomes a former college tennis standout-turned-artist and mental health advocate to discuss how mental health continues to be overlooked in societal discourse.
Published Oct 04, 2022
WATCH: Think About It, Season 2 Teaser
Victoria Azarenka continued an important conversation surrounding mental health on Season 2 of her Think About It podcast, welcoming former college tennis standout-turned-artist and mental health advocate Jeffrey Sparr on for the sixth episode.
“I’ve always considered mental health and the stigma around it to be one of the last great social issues in the world that we haven’t gotten our hands on,” says Sparr, who played for Ohio State University in the 1980s. “I always say: invisible, misunderstood, and you can’t talk about it? That’s a tough combination.”
Plagued by intrusive thoughts, Sparr was eventually diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, and turned to art as a form of therapy.
“I had never painted a day in my life but when you’re desperate you know what you’ll try? Anything,” he explains to the former world No. 1.
“Creativity and art literally changed the course of my life. It gave me a sense of control that all mental illnesses rob you of. It was invigorating to my soul, gave me peace of mind, and I was pretty good at it. That was the shock!”
Azarenka has been open about her own struggles with mental health—discussing the difficulties she endured earlier this spring with previous guest Brandon Marshall—and touched on the idea her accolades gave her the freedom to speak on these topics in a way that society doesn’t typically afford the average person.
“When it comes from a public person, people listen more, which is something I understand but also not because being a public person doesn’t make you more or less of a person. We all go through the same things and the same struggles,” she says, adding later, “Mental health is so important because it’s connected to your physical heath.”
Azarenka, too, has embraced art as therapy.
“It was a pure moment of letting go,” she admits of her first time in front of a canvas.
Check out the full episode as Sparr and Azarenka bond over art, the importance of high-profile people speaking out about mental health, and what more needs to be done to address the issue.
Stream all episodes of Think About It—available on multiple domestic and international Tennis Channel platforms.