Dave Kitson: I tried to kill myself as depression took a grip on my life

Dave Kitson: I tried to kill myself as depression took a grip on my life

December 7, 2018 0 By Today news

DEPRESSSION is an unfortunate word. It implies those who suffer from it are merely a little bit sad and can snap out of it at any time.

But make no mistake, depression is a killer. It is an epidemic facing not only football but also the wider world.

Former Portsmouth striker Dave Kitson has revealed how he tried to take his own life
Former Portsmouth striker Dave Kitson has revealed how he tried to take his own life
PA:Empics Sport

On Sunday, my former teammate at Portsmouth, David Cotterill, revealed in this paper that he has struggled for years with depression.

I asked him to tell his story on talkSPORT on Wednesday night and his revelations were shocking — but not surprising.

In his darkest moments he would take a knife and hold it to his throat, waiting to see if that was the day he plunged it into his neck.

He is by no means the only player to suffer.

Portsmouth team-mate David Cotterill also spoke of his mental health struggles
Portsmouth team-mate David Cotterill also spoke of his mental health struggles
PA:Press Association

In recent years, former Burnley centre-half and ex-PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle has jumped in front of a lorry and Robert Enke, the German international goalkeeper, stood in front of a train. He succeeded in killing himself.

Clearly, the pressure of professional football is a major problem for an ever-increasing number of players.

It’s a real illness and it doesn’t discriminate based on the job you do or the wealth you have.

So the question is not: “What have you footballers got to be depressed about?”

The question is: “Why are these players trying to kill themselves?”

They didn’t know what the problem was and I wasn’t about to offer up what I’m sure many would have considered a pathetic excuse from a grown man playing pro football.

Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke took his own life
Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke took his own life
Bongarts – Getty
Clarke Carlisle is another who has had well documented struggles with depression
Clarke Carlisle is another who has had well documented struggles with depression
Getty – Contributor

I have been fighting my own battle for years. As I climbed the leagues I found I took on more wealth and fame but all the time I was painting myself into a corner.

As things got bigger, the space I had to move became smaller until I felt it choking me.

Depression is cruel. At certain moments it has rendered me helpless.

There were times playing for Portsmouth when I shouldn’t have been anywhere near the training ground, let alone the pitch.

But at the time the    club was in administration and the owners were desperately trying to find ways to sack players for breach of contract, so not turning up wasn’t an option. It was a torturous spiral for everybody.

What I produced on the pitch was a pale imitation of a footballer and a classic example of a man with clinical depression.


I do not blame the fans for screaming at me from the stands but there were so many times that I wanted to scream back at them: “You don’t understand!”

They didn’t know what the problem was and I wasn’t about to offer up what I’m sure many would have considered a pathetic excuse from a grown man playing pro football.

At home I couldn’t move from the sofa, the TV wasn’t on and I didn’t eat. I just stared out of the window.

I was non-functioning and hopelessly lost and eventually the illness convinced my brain the best thing for everybody concerned would be if I found a way to put an end to it all.

I was officially diagnosed at Portsmouth by a fantastic doctor called Greg Warner, after I’d deliberately driven my car into the concrete pillar of a bridge.

Today, I survive on a cocktail of medication and regular visits to a psychiatrist.

Kitson made his breakthrough when playing for Reading
Kitson made his breakthrough when playing for Reading
PA:Press Association
The ex-Premier League star is now starting out on a career working in the media
The ex-Premier League star is now starting out on a career working in the media
Ian Whittaker – The Sun

I’m still here and thankfully a lot of the depression that came from knowing that I can never play professional football again has given way to a new chapter in my life.

I’m new to punditry and writing columns and, as such, I’ve found that I regularly come in for criticism from ex-players and managers from a bygone era who believe I have gone against some kind of prehistoric code of silence by talking about what really happens within the game.

And in particular, what happens inside the changing rooms.

But look at where that code has brought us.

The idea that what happens in the changing room stays in the changing room is a recipe for a lonely existence that ultimately leads to depression and, in the worst cases, death.

A third of ex-players suffer from mental illness and that number is predicted to soar.

David Cotterill is a far braver man than any player or manager who has endorsed the silent mantra that has held this game back for decades.

By speaking out he might not only have saved himself, he may also have saved the next generation, too.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, these organisations will provide support . . .

CALM www.thecalmzone.net – Tel: 0800 585858

HEADS TOGETHER www.headstogether.org.uk

MIND www.mind.org.uk – Tel 0300 1233393

PAPYRUS www.papyrus-uk.org – 0800 0684141

SAMARITANS www.samaritans.org 116123