Chris Kirkland has revealed how his crippling battle against depression was the major factor behind his decision to retire from professional football.
The ex-Liverpool and Wigan Athletic goalkeeper spoke candidly to the Guardian newspaper about being 'ashamed' of fighting his mental illness, but now felt comfortable to speak up against the problem after seeking professional help to combat it.
Kirkland called time on his 17-year career in August 2016 after he asked Bury to "rip up his contract" as depression overpowered him, and the shot stopper explained how he was feeling now after finally acting on beating his 'black dog'.
He said: “It’s easy for me to talk about it now because I’ve seen a way out of it. That is the biggest thing and I want other people and other players to know that you’ve just got to talk.
"I never saw a way out of it until I started to talk about it. There was a fear. But as soon as you talk, that’s when you’re helping yourself and your family.
“It’s a big knock-on thing and, eventually, you don’t want to go out. You don’t want to talk to people. You put your phone on silent and you don’t reply to anyone. I couldn’t wait to come home. It’s a vicious circle and you just can’t get yourself out of it.
Any footballer who comes out and talks openly about depression has my respect. Very brave interview from Chris Kirkland.— Tom Taylor-Batty (@TomTB1995) October 11, 2017
“I couldn’t think properly. I couldn’t see a way of functioning. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to do the stuff that I’d always done. I just didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to shut myself off.”
Kirkland, who said his problems began when his spell at Wigan was coming to an end in 2012, admitted that the suicidal death of Gary Speed 12 months prior had played on his mind during his constant struggles with anxiety and depression.
The 36-year-old, though, has managed to work through his mental problems with the help of the PFA's player welfare department, stated that he refrained from comitting suicide himself due to his wife Leeona and his daughter Lucy.
He added: “I always ask myself: ‘Would I have done something to myself? Would I have harmed myself? I like to think I wouldn’t have done.
“ I’d never have done it because of Leeona and our daughter, Lucy. But I was worried how close I was to the next step. That’s why I said: ‘I need to stop playing football.’”
If you are struggling with mental health problems, please do not think that there's nobody there who can help you. You can call Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or the National Prevention Suicide Lifeline in the US on 1-800-273-8255.