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'I've had suicidal thoughts' says former England footballer Kelly Smith

England's most successful women's footballer has revealed for the first time that she considered suicide when she was out injured.

Kelly Smith, the country's top goal scorer and a former Arsenal striker, told ITV News London she wanted to kill herself, because she couldn't cope when she wasn't playing.

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.

– Kelly Smith
Kelly Smith celebrating after scoring against Japan in 2007 Credit: AP

Her story comes just days after Everton winger Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act by police over concerns for his welfare and as the latest Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) figures reveal that more players have sought help for mental health issues in 2017 than the whole of last year.

Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act Credit: AP

Smith became England's first female professional footballer when she joined American side New Jersey in 1999.

But five years later she broke her leg and started drinking heavily - a bottle of vodka each night - to deal with not playing.

Rehab eventually followed and she managed to get her career back on track when she returned to Arsenal.

Kelly Smith celebrating at a 2007 game against Japan Credit: AP

The PFA say depression and other mental health issues are a growing problem within their sport.

Last year, 160 players used their counselling services. This year, 178 current and retired players have already been in contact.

The organisation puts this down to increased awareness and say 11 players have asked for counselling since Lennon's story was revealed last week.

It has more than 100 counsellors working with current and retired players delivering 655 sessions last year, they offer workshops and have a 24-hour hotline that was set up in 2012, following the death of former Wales manager Gary Speed.

The majority of current players who use the PFA's counselling services are struggling with addiction (66%) but retired players are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety (42% of those using the counselling services).

Jason Brown playing for Wales at a friendly against Mexico Credit: AP

Former Charlton and Sutton United goalkeeper Jason Brown found life difficult when he retired.

He told ITV News London he tried to kill himself shortly after he left the game.

Since I was eight years of age I've known what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be and then all of a sudden this massive void was there and there was no structure in my life.

There was no training, there was no 'where am I going to be, why am I doing it', it's just gone and that's been really difficult for me to live with and deal with.

– Jason Brown, former Charlton and Sutton United goalkeeper

Brown and Smith have spoken out to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness week.

Smith says she wants to use her profile to encourage others to speak out.

Even now talking about it, I'm thinking is this the right thing to do, to tell you and to tell the world.

But if I can help other people along the way, because there are so many other athletes and people who go through these same things, that it's okay to talk about it, it can help other people.

– Kelly Smith

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.