Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sam Hutchinson has opened up about his depression in the hope of encouraging men to talk about their mental health.
Sam, 29, spoke on BBC Radio Sheffield’s Football Heaven as part of Time to Talk Day, which aims to encourage people to talk about their mental health.
The dad-of-three spoke about how he thought his football career was over at the age of just 21 and also revealed how he struggled following Wednesday’s FA Cup at his former club Chelsea last month.
Sam said: “I suffered from a lot of injuries for a long time from the age of 11 really - that’s when I went to see my first surgeon.
“I missed a lot of football and when you miss something you love you get down and I got depressed and had some really bad thoughts.
"Topped off with me retiring, it took me to a place where I really wasn't well.
"I had to go and speak about it and when you learn to speak about it to the right people, the more you speak about it, you open yourself up to helping yourself.
“It was a massive thing for me - one to have the courage to do that but also to think I am ready to do that because unless you're ready to help yourself, like anything, you're never going to do that.”
Hutchinson was picked out as a future star for Chelsea in his youth but a knee injury forced him to retire before he got the chance to shine for the Premier League club.
He said: "My knee was bad, there was pain and I gave up really. I'd had my tonsils out – that was the final straw. Something went wrong with that and I was just thinking can't do it no more.
"I'd been at Chelsea since I was seven, I'd been through so many injuries. I nearly gave up when I was 16 but my dad stopped me then and I went on to really hate football. I hated everything, I just didn't want to do anything anymore.
"I got married when I was retired and [wife Jennifer] kept me going – she still does now. She gives me a kick up the bum when I need it and she sorts me out but she was the one that was my mainstay. If it wasn't for her I wouldn't be playing football at the moment.”
"I pushed my dad, mum, sisters, I pushed everyone away because they just reminded me of football. My dad never missed a game when I was younger. He took me to every training session, he had done everything for me so it was a massive part of his life as well.
"Seeing them struggle made it worse for me because they didn't know what to say. They were on tenterhooks all the time but it was just easier to shut them out.
"I didn't sleep. I had suicidal thoughts and then I hadn't slept properly for six months so they gave me some tablets for sleeping.
"When you are in that state you just can't see anything else.”
Sam, who joined wednesday in 2014, said he still struggled with mental health but now knew ‘how to deal with it’.
He said: “Football is very much an addiction to me.
"I have some horrible days, like the Chelsea game - that was a horrible day for me. That was one of the worst I've had since I've been back.
"You deal with it because now I have got stuff in place where I know how to deal with it."
Sam, who has made 13 appearances for Wednesday so far this season, said he hoped to encourage others to speak about their mental health
He said: "I started speaking about it to help myself but now I speak about it – not for people to ever feel sorry for me but to help other people and for them to know it's normal.
"People go through different things in life and it's there to test us. The more people that have these experiences and come out the other end and speak about it in a positive way it can only help other people."