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Dave Kitson: Former Reading, Stoke and Portsmouth striker opens up about his battle with depression

Dave Kitson has lifted the lid on how he’s been battling depression for years.
The former Stoke, Reading and Portsmouth striker played in the Premier League for all three clubs and revealed he was going through the worst of it at Pompey.
Kitson said some of his displays in a Portsmouth shirt were one of a “pale imitation of a footballer”.
However, he was unable to take time off immediately as the south coast club were in administration and looking for reasons to terminate the contract of any player.
Writing in his column for The Sun, Kitson said: “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!’
Kitson was unable to address his mental health issues immediately due to Portsmouth’s dire financial situation at the time
“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.
Kitson’s decision to open up was partly-inspired by hearing ex-Portsmouth team-mate David Cotterill’s story
“Today, I survive on a cocktail of medication and regular visits to a psychiatrist.”
Depression is an illness that is affecting more and more footballers, including Kitson’s ex-Portsmouth team-mate David Cotterill.
Kitson added that it was Cotterill’s decision to open up that helped inspire him to do the same.
He added: “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.
Kitson in action for Stoke in 2009
“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.
Ex-Burnley captain Clarke Carlisle has gone public about his ongoing battle with depression
A third of ex-players suffer from mental illness with that number predicted to soar, while German goalkeeper Robert Enke took his own life in November 2009.
Former Burnley captain Clarke Carlisle has tried to kill himself on multiple occasions, having previously spoken about his battle with depression.
Kitson added: “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.
Former Hannover 96 keeper Robert Enke committed suicide in 2009 after struggling to cope with the death of his daughter
“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?’”
 If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, these organisations will provide support . . . CALM www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585858 HEADS TOGETHER www.headstogether.org.uk MIND www.mind.org.uk, 0300 1233393 PAPYRUS www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 0684141 SAMARITANS www.samaritans.org 116123

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