Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston opens up on how he dealt with his mental health issues
Andrew “Beef” Johnston warned that “nobody is immune” to mental health struggles as he revealed how opening up about his own problems was one of the best – and most crucial – moves of his career.
Little was known about Johnston’s mental health until he lifted the lid on his issues in an emotionally-charged interview with Tim Barter following his superb final-round 62 at last year’s Scottish Open – earning him his first top-10 finish of 2019 while also booking a place in The Open at Royal Portrush the following week.
Speaking live to The Golf Show on Sky Sports News, the popular Englishman explained how he was persuaded to consult a psychologist about his problems by his fiancee, Jodie, and Johnston has urged other athletes in a similar position to do the same.
“What I’ve learned the most is that it can happen to anyone at any time,” said Johnston. “Nobody is immune, so you shouldn’t be worried about talking to someone. Talk to someone close if you can, and someone you trust, and it’s better to be open about it. The more people that open up about it and talk, then the easier it becomes for everyone else.
“My situation was quite interesting. I had no idea what was going on until I started working with a psychologist, and my fiancée, Jodie, was the one that pushed me to do that when I was very hesitant to.
“Once I started talking about it, I could understand what was going on and the pressure I was putting myself under, and for no reason. It all made sense, and I’m still learning a lot about myself now.”
Johnston now insists his young family take priority over golf, although he admitted he cannot wait to get back to competition when professional golf returns after the coronavirus lockdown.
“I keep my perspective,” he added. “I want to win golf tournaments, there’s no doubt about that. I want to do well, I want to play Ryder Cups, play in majors and all that. But first things first, I want to be a good dad and the best dad I can be, that comes above golf. I want to be a good fiancé, and I want to be the best person I can be. All of that is above golf.
“So if I get those things in order, and know that even if I’m having a bad day I’m still talking to people and being myself, that’s the most important thing and golf comes next.”
Johnston also believes golf’s authorities could be doing more to help out players with mental health concerns, a view echoed by Sky Sports commentator and former PGA champion Rich Beem, who revealed he also struggled with expectations at times.
“Golf is such an individual sport where you can’t lean on team-mates,” said Beemer. “It’s you, and you alone, out there trying to perform at your absolute best, and the onus falls on you when you don’t succeed.
“Golfers probably put more pressure on themselves mentally, especially those who didn’t grow up in the spotlight. When you have those expectations that other people have put on you, your own expectations might be different sometimes, and that can throw you off.
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“I went through some of the same things as Beef. I got to the point where nothing made sense, and I was asking myself why I felt the need to be super-human out there when I wasn’t.
“I knew I was fallible at golf, but I also knew that when I was good, I was really good. I took a personality test and I learned so much about myself that I never knew previously, and that helped me immensely to get past some of the anxieties that I had on the golf course.
“But I also think the governing bodies should look at golf and realise there are people out there who struggle. It’s a case of how does everyone deal with it, how do they get past it, and awareness alone is a huge first step. I think there should be more money and research in this area.
“This actually goes deeper than going to see a normal sports psychologist, who might be more trained to deal with helping athletes get the most out of their abilities.
“This is different, this is more emotional and sports psychologists may not understand it as deeply as they could, or should. I look at some of the folks that follow the players around, and you do have psychologists working with the players, but what do they actually do? Are they just getting the players focused?
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