09 Sep 2021 | Feature stories |

Daniel Gaunt: A healthier approach to social media

by PGA of Australia

Daniel Gaunt shares his mental health struggles.

On August 24 Aussie golfer Daniel Gaunt posted to Instagram about how he was struggling mentally. Here, on R U OK? Day, he shares his recent struggles and his surprise at the reaction the post received. Written with Tony Webeck.

I didn’t expect any response to my Instagram post but the reaction from people was pretty outstanding to be honest. And it was overwhelming, the amount of messages I got asking if I was all right. If I needed to chat, that they’re always there for me, stuff like that.

I couldn’t have imagined that was going to happen. It was a post that I just put out and didn’t really expect anything of it. You get a few likes or whatever, but it just shows that there are people that care about you.

That’s where social media is good for your career – you’re keeping people updated that actually take an interest in your career and you as a person. You don’t realise how many people actually do care about you until something like that happens.

It wasn’t a cry for help but I think it’s the best way to communicate with people through social media. Just explain that even though I’m having good results, it doesn’t mean I’m 100 per cent fit or anything like that. And that we all struggle.

Of course, and we all recognise this, there is a negative aspect to social media. I saw Jessica Korda’s post about death threats after the Solheim Cup; there are just some seriously sad people out there doing that.

It’s not good enough really. Social media channels have to be stricter on how you sign up to these things to stop this online abuse because it doesn’t help anyone.

Since our first lockdown over here in England I’ve started cycling and that’s been unbelievable for clearing my head. Just to go out for a couple of hours on the road, around Richmond Park and see some wildlife, cruise around watching other cyclists. You don’t think about anything. That has been a massive benefit for me.

I’ve struggled for a few years mentally on and off the golf course. The other day I went to work and everything was just getting to me.

I’ve had a pretty good year on the golf course but my short game and putting has let me down. I get really anxious over putts, my hands start shaking and then with everything that’s going on in the world, sometimes it just boils over.

My wife’s mum died not long ago and that has played a big part in the way we’ve felt mentally. Knowing what’s going on in Australia with COVID and the lockdowns, it’s made me think, Am I ever going to get back to Australia to see my parents again? I keep thinking about it and thinking about it and the answer just seems to be no. That’s probably the biggest thing that’s affected me off the golf course.

In the past I always bottled things up, and then I’d have one pretty big outburst. Whether it was throwing a club, or swearing, or just losing my temper somewhere along the line. But the older I’ve got, the more chilled out I have become on the golf course.

I’ve got a life coach who I talk to and one of my very good friends sees the same life coach so anytime that I’m struggling or he’s struggling, we get on the phone to each other and we chat it out. You just need to get whatever you’ve got on your chest out and let them listen. They can come back to you with a different way of trying to explain things in a different way. To get you to think differently and see the world in a different light. And sometimes that’s all it needs just to get you back on the straight and narrow.

I’m fortunate that I’ve lived in London for the past 20 years but for guys who are travelling around on Tour living out of a suitcase life can be very lonely.

You might be rooming with one person that whole time so you need that person to be your best mate. If you don’t feel like you can talk to them, it’s going to get lonely.

And if you are struggling and can speak to them, you probably don’t want to keep pestering them because that’s going to start affecting their performance and the way that they feel about travelling with you. So it is difficult.

If I sense another player is struggling I probably won’t say anything at the golf course, I’ll message them after the round and say, “Keep your head up, keep going. I’m always there if you need any help.”

I have been known to do that, and I’m always there especially for the young guys now. I feel like a little bit of a role model for them on these mini tours so they know I’m always there for a chat.

Often that’s all you need.

RU OK Day is Thursday, September 9. For more information on resources and guidance available please visit ruok.org.au.

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