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Scottish professional footballer David Cox recently opened up on his secret battle with mental health demons in bid to help other sufferers. Below his incredible story, written by David McCarthy from the Scottish Daily Record. Only weeks ago, the 25-year-old Peterhead player attempted suicide.

David Cox looks like your archetypal football player in his white polo shirt with muscled, tattooed arms. Then you look a little bit closer, beyond the ink, and you see the scars. The 25-year-old once had stars in his eyes, not scars on his arms.

David, now playing in League One with Peterhead, left school at 16 to join Kilmarnock full-time as a kid chasing a dream. But even at that age, the Lanark-born striker was wrestling with demons. The self-harming had begun.

Three weeks ago, David attempted suicide. His pals saved his life. The following day, he sat on a riverbank ready to end it all.

That he didn't, and the fact that yesterday he chose to speak to the Daily Record to help himself and others suffering mental health issues, may represent a light at the end of a long dark tunnel for David.

This is his story.

"I was probably about 15 when I started self-harming," he said. "I was always quick to get angry with myself more than anybody else.

"I joined Kilmarnock and was full-time when I was 16 and it was better. I was better.

"But I got released when I was 19, just turning 20, and the problems came back then.

"Being released messed with my head. There were other factors as well – I met a girl and we had a wee girl but we split up and I didn't see my daughter much."

He went part-time with Montrose but two red cards in 11 appearances ended his time at Links Park. He was in a very dark place. David said: "I took two overdoses. It was partly to do with football and partly the relationship I was in.

"I was taken to the hospital both times. The last time was bad. My mum came into my room and found me.

"After that, I had access to psychiatric nurses and the like for the first time but I didn't feel they gave a s*** about whether I was getting better or not."

David joined Annan Athletic and did well there before joining Alloa in May 2012 – and the demons were to return during a spell that lasted only three months and ended up with him sectioned at Wishaw General.

He said: "I hadn't long signed for Alloa but I was waking up every morning and the first thing I'd think about was killing myself and how I could do it.

"My mum and dad had just split up and I was getting a lot of hassle from my ex and not getting to see my wee lassie. There were threats of lawyers getting involved. It was a lot to deal with but when I went to Alloa, I tried to hide it.

"It was too much for me. I'd go into training and I couldn't concentrate. I was getting angry and there was an incident at training and I was out."

David injured himself and was taken to hospital.

He said: " The doctors I spoke to advised that I should be sectioned. I was in Wishaw General and it was a horrible place to be.

"Being in there for a week really showed me there are a lot of people with bigger problems than I had.

"The two months between leaving Alloa and signing for Peterhead was the worst time of my life.

"I tried to hang myself in my room and my sister just happened to walk in the door. If she hadn't been there, I think I would have done it."

That prompted him to seek the help of a counsellor, players'union PFA Scotland and his new club Peterhead.

David thought he had left the worst of his problems behind him. He was wrong. David said: "I got in touch with Stuart Lovell at the players' union at the time of the Alloa incident. It was the best thing I've ever done. If it wasn't for Stuart, there's a good chance I wouldn't be here.

"My manager at Peterhead, Jim McInally, has been unbelievable. There was a time I was really down and he took me into his home in Dundee. I stayed with him until I was feeling better.

"Stuart put me on to people at the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and they put me on to a counsellor called Cathy. I saw her every week and things got better.

"After a year I thought I was okay, so I saw her every fortnight, then once a month and then stopped altogether.

"That was a mistake. Slowly, it all crept back in and three weeks ago I hurt myself again.

"I got a scare that last time. I was in my house and my friends were trying to take the knife off me. It was really bad for them.

"I was in hospital overnight as they stitched up my chest but when I came back out I felt 10 times worse about what I'd done. I thought about hanging myself again.

"I took a walk down to New Lanark. That was the closest I've ever been. I sat there for hours. I was an absolute mess.

"Why didn't I do it? My family and my wee girl. She'll be five soon.

"Maybe I am too scared to do it. Otherwise, I'd have done it a long time ago."

David is seeing his counsellor again. He is building up a business as a fitness instructor and personal trainer.

He doesn't think he'll rid himself completely of his problems but he believes he will manage them better in future.

"I've got my football, my classes and the gym to help me. And my counsellor.

"I am sick of covering myself in scars.

"People who just know me through football might think I'm an a***hole.

"I'd like people to understand and I hope other people who are going through it can speak about it or get help.

"Holding it in for as long as I did isn't the best way. Luckily I'm still here but I might not have been.

"There are definitely other players out there with mental health problems. They should contact the PFA and get the help they need."

 

(With special thanks to David McCarthy and the Daily Record)

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