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

Credit: AP

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.

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.

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.

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.