Battling depression: Record number of sportsmen and women seek help

ITV News has discovered record numbers of former and current sport players are asking for help with mental health issues.

Arsenal's Kelly Smith celebrates with the trophy after winning the SSE Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium Credit: PA
  • The Professional Footballers Association says 302 players sought support in the first seven months of 2017
  • That's almost double the number for the whole of 2016, which was 160
  • A record 79 cricketers and more than 50 rugby players also asked their player associations for help last season
Kelly Smith Credit: PA

Former Arsenal and England international Kelly Smith celebrated much success in her career like winning the FA Cup three times, but away from the spotlight, repeated injuries left her considering taking her own life.

I would drink alcohol around three o'clock, having spent the day working on my knee in rehab, and I'd come home and really hit the bottle quite hard because I didn't want to think and feel anymore.

I didn't have football and I felt so low, and there were times when I just thought about killing myself.

– Kelly Smith, Former Arsenal and England international

Addiction to alcohol and stealing left former Kent and Derby cricketer Simon Cusden homeless and suicidal. He says the pressure to perform in sport made his health worse.

Simon Cusden, former Kent and Derby cricketer Credit: PA

The reason I started playing sport was to escape and then sport became the thing that was trapping me, and I just didn't have the emotional capacity to deal with he pressure.

– Simon Cusden, former Kent and Derby cricketer

Former Harlequins player Ollie Phillips was voted the best Rugby 7's player in the world in 2009. Months afterwards injury meant his career ended at the age of just 29-years-old.

Ollie Phillips

The transition for me was hard and it probably took about a year for me get comfortable with my emotions.

There was a saying when I played for England that you had to be comfortable at being uncomfortable and that's so relevant now when it comes to recognising that in life, there aren't always going to be these massive adrenaline highs.

– Ollie Phillips, Former Harlequins player
Kelly Smith, Simon Cusden and Ollie Phillips Credit: ITV News

All three sports say more players are coming forward because of increased awareness, and these former players hope their stories encourage others to ask for help.

The Rugby Players' Association say the increase in their cases coincided with their 'Lift the Weight' campaign was launched by in February.

In the three months leading up to the campaign three players asked for help compared to 18 players in the two months after.

If you or anyone you know is affected by mental health issues, you can find help and advice here.