ENGLAND and Arsenal legend Kelly Smith has revealed she had suicidal thoughts during her career after struggling to cope with injury.
The Three Lions’ all-time leading scorer was speaking out during Mental Health Awareness week, as the PFA revealed calls to them for help have gone up three times this year.
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The 38-year-old striker scored 46 goals in 117 games for her country and was regarded as one of the world’s best ever female footballers – but had a number of injury problems.
She retired earlier this year having had three separate spells with the all-conquering Arsenal Ladies side, along with clubs in the United States.
But the 2012 Great Britain Olympian has opened up about her battles with depression during the darkest moments of her professional career.
Smith told ITV News: “I was very, very low to the point where I had suicidal thoughts.
“I remember walking around my apartment and looking at the lighting fixtures and the wardrobe fixtures and thinking could I hang a bed sheet there and hang myself.
“Would that hold my weight? Those were my deepest darkest days and they happened on a consistent basis.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association revealed the threefold increase in the number of current and ex-pros players wanting help from their counsellors with mental health issues.
Last year 160 players contacted them, while this year the figure is already at 178 while not even being half way through 2017.
Smith’s heartbreaking story comes a few days after Everton and England star Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act by police over concerns for his welfare.
The PFA also added that 11 players have since contacted them after Lennon’s struggles were made public.
Smith was England’s first female professional footballer after joining US outfit New Jersey Ladies in 1999.
But five years later she broke her leg and began to drink a whole bottle of vodka every night in order to cope with not playing.
A spell in rehab followed and she got her career back on course by returning to Arsenal for the peak of her career.
If you are affected by any of the topics in this article, the Samaritans can be contacted free on 116 123 or more help is available on their website.