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Andrew Johnston has revealed that his new-found success in golf drove him to suicidal thoughts.
Speaking with former footballer Robbie Savage ahead of the BMW PGA Championship in a video to support the tournament’s official charity partner CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably – Johnston admits his rise to fame and subsequent issues have taken him “to some dark places”.
‘Beef’, as the Londoner is more commonly known, became something of a cult hero in 2016 when he won his maiden European Tour title in Spain before drawing huge crowds at that year’s Open for his eccentric style of play and outgoing personality en route to a tie for eighth at Royal Troon.
But persistent injury problems saw him miss the 2022 season entirely, with just one appearance so far this year – a tie for 38th at the Dubai Desert Classic in January.
“I was a kid from a small golf club in North London,” he says. “I love to mess around, hang around my mates, and have a laugh.
“But all of a sudden, I’ll be standing on the range next to your Rory McIlroys, your Rickie Fowlers, whoever it was, and be like, ‘This is ridiculous – I’m not supposed to be here.’ The pressure I put on myself after that to try and win every week – which is so unrealistic – and the more pressure I put on myself, the worse I played, the more wound-up I got, and the more pressure I felt because I wasn’t performing.
“It was a big rabbit hole of spiral, you could call it, to the point where you couldn’t get me on a golf course.”
Savage asks about his lowest point, and Johnston recalls a time not long after he had undergone surgery, when he was in a Singapore hotel room with his family by his side.
“You question, ‘Are you going to play again?’ I remember we were on the 19th floor and something had rattled me. I was in a really dark place.
“The thoughts just start popping into your head. ‘What would happen if I just jumped off?’ And you start thinking, ‘You’ve got a wife, you’ve got a kid. Is that a suicidal thought? What does that even mean?'”
Johnston reveals how he sought the help of renowned sport psychiatrist Steve Peters in a bid to “rewire my brain” and, after a few months away from the game, he says he “felt like a big weight had been lifted”.
He adds: “He told me something really really interesting, I’ll never forget it. Quite morbidly he said, ‘You’re laying on your deathbed – what you want to be remembered for?’ I just said, ‘I want to be Beef, or Andrew, hanging out with my mates, that silly, fun character, having a laugh, having a good time, and remembered as a nice person.’ And he went, ‘You haven’t mentioned the golf tournament. It’s not that important, is it?’ That gave me a big slap of reality.
“Wow. That stayed with me forever.”
Between clips of Johnston and Savage talking, the video notes that one in four people in the UK are struggling with their mental health at any one time, while one in five of us will have suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. The CALM Helpline receives a staggering 28,000 calls each month – that’s one every 59 seconds.
Johnston says he keen to help in “getting rid of that stigma that men shouldn’t speak out or you look soft”.
“It makes you stronger, not weaker,” he adds. “I believe everyone in this world will go through some form of mental health dark place, regardless of what they do, and everyone can relate to that.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, visit the CALM website or call the helpline on 0800 58 58 58. Lines are open every day from 5pm to midnight. You can watch the full video with Andrew Johnston and Robbie Savage on the DP World Tour’s YouTube channel.
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