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John Francis – Back from the brink after battling depression

 

PGA Member John Francis is hoping his own personal experiences with mental health, which saw him attempt to take his own life on three occasions, will inspire other people to come forward and talk about their problems.

The 52-year-old has suffered from depression for more than 20 years and a variety of issues, both in the workplace and at home, led to Francis attempting to commit suicide three times.

“I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve tried to kill myself three times,” Francis revealed. “At the time I felt helpless and so low because I thought I’d failed.

“The second time I tried to overdose on tablets, but that was a culmination of a lot of things. I was working long hours and my marriage suffered. More recently I tried to kill myself last year, I’d lost everything. I’m not proud of what I have done.”

Francis took an interest in golf from an early age. He completed a five-year apprenticeship to become a qualified PGA Assistant at the age of 21.

Working with the likes of John Jacobs, Scott Cranfield and David Leadbetter, Francis has excelled as a golf coach, but away from the golf course his problems with depression have always been there.

“Depression has always been a part of my life,” Francis continued. “I’ve been in the priory twice, I’ve smashed my car with golf clubs, my wife couldn’t cope with me because I was uncontrollable.

“I went to the doctors and the answer was tablets. It was like having a shut club face and shutting it even more.

“When I was on all of the medication in the priory I felt horrible. I put on a lot of weight and felt terrible. During the low times it’s very hard. You can’t get out of bed, you feel sorry for yourself, you’ve got no energy.”

John Francis tees off during day 2 of the Silversea Senior PGA Professional Championship at Foxhills Golf Course on May 18, 2017. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Francis has benefited from having a support network in place thanks to his family who have always stood by him. He has recently started full-time work with Thames Water as a Network Service Technician, but is also back doing what he does best, teaching golf at London’s Chingford Golf Range.

“I’m very lucky I’ve got a close-knit family because some people don’t have that. I’m going to start teaching again because for the last six months I’ve had to give everything to land this new career.

“There is a lot of support now but I’m not sure that was there a few years ago. The PGA are doing a lot of good work now and if I can assist and help out then that’s fantastic; I want to do that. I want to make other PGA Members and other people aware of mental health issues.

“I’m here to tell my story. I know where I’ve been, I’ve been rock bottom and I want to share my story with as many people as possible.”

Francis now has plans to run a series of events to raise money for mental health charity Mind in a bid to raise awareness about a disease which has had such a big impact on his life.

He added: “I want to hold a big charity day in aid of the Mind charity. I want to run the day and all money raised will go to the charity.

“Things have changed for me. I now keep myself fit. I go running every day, I go to the gym, I eat properly and I love it. I’ve suffered with mental health problems for over 20 years. Nowadays there’s more awareness about mental health issues. If I can stop one person from killing themselves then it will be worth it.”

John Francis pictured with golfing royalty John Jacobs.