Scots footballer David Cox tells how return to the pitch is helping save his life after suicide torment

Footballer David Cox has told how his return to the pitch has helped save his life after turning his back on the game.

The ex Albion Rovers attacker dramatically quit football during a match – claiming he was cruelly taunted on the field by an opponent over a previous suicide attempt.

But the 32-year-old says he has reinvented himself as a player with new club Brechin City and found a new passion for the sport that is helping him overcome his torment.

David – who was millimetres from death when he tried to end his life just a few years ago – is sharing his battle back from his darkest moments to mark World Mental Health day tomorrow.

And the player, from Lanark, is today urging anyone secretly struggling with mental illness to reach out for help.

He said: “When I left football, I thought if I took myself away from the situation I wouldn’t have to deal with the things that were going on.

“Football for me is all about winning and I love that, but it wasn’t a good place for me at that time and I was going to end up getting myself in trouble.

“After that game I decided to walk away and was adamant I wasn’t going back. But I missed it.

“I still deal with the things I’m going through on a daily basis but I’m now managing to play football and run a business, even thought it is a struggle.

“I want people to know that if I can do it, others can. It’s about putting in the work – keeping at it and keeping on top of the things that make you feel better.”

David’s struggles began when he was at school and culminated in a string of harrowing attempts to take his own life.

He will share his story at an event held by Lanarkshire-based charity FAMS (Families Affected by Murder and Suicide) tomorrow, which encourages others to walk and talk about their mental health.

He said: “I probably started self harming when I was 14. As a youngster I had a lot of anger issues and as I got older it got worse.

“I tried to take my life a few times between the age of 18 and my late twenties.

“The most serious was four or five years ago, when I just missed my jugular vein by millimetres.

David has opened up about his battles with self harm and suicidal thoughts

“Fortunately for me it didn’t happen. But at the times I was at my lowest it was the worst, most loneliest place. I used to wake up every day thinking about how I could end my life and how I could do it quickly and painlessly.

“The thought of telling someone how I was feeling made me feel embarrassed.

“It’s something I wish no one else had to go through and is the reason I want to talk about these things now.”

David’s battle reached crisis point once again in April when former Stenhousemuir defender Jonathan Tiffoney was charged with ‘excessive misconduct’ after allegedly goading him during a match.

The former Cowdenbeath player left the stadium at half-time and posted a video to social media announcing he was hanging up his boots due to repeated abuse he had suffered in the game due to his mental health.

Tiffoney – who denied the charges – has not faced a hearing as he is no longer registered to a club.

But three months later, David was approached by Brechin City and offered a spot on the squad.

He said: “I had to think seriously about it and discuss it with my wife. I’ve played all my life and it’s been my main income since I left school. I missed being involved with the guys and I missed winning.

“It’s different now – the way I look at it and the player I can be when I’m in a good place. But it has had an impact on the way I play because I was at my best when I was being aggressive and getting stuck in. That was when I got my best results and I’ve probably lost a bit of that because I don’t want to be that horrible person on the park, but I’m really enjoying it up there.”

David, who owns a gym in Motherwell, said he now focuses on things that improve his mental health, including fitness and talking to his support network.

He said: “I still have really bad days and have to work hard to keep myself on a good level.

“I also have a lot of people around me who understand when things aren’t too good and that’s down to being open with them.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of the feelings I get on a daily basis. It’s something I will be dealing with for the rest of my life. It’s just about how I react.

“Now I’m better at recognising them and dealing with it before it gets to a bad place.

“Don’t be embarrassed like I was. It’s an illness like any other.

“The most important thing is not to be afraid to speak to reach out. There are so many people out there who want to help.”

TV presenter Amy urges others to share grief after losing partner to suicide

Amy Irons is also encouraging others to share their grief after losing her boyfriend to suicide.

The 30-year-old was left devastated when partner Wayne Ewer, 34, took his own life in June 2018 after battling an “invisible illness” and struggled to cope with her loss.

The BBC sport and entertainment presenter told the Record about the importance of sharing trauma with others as she prepares to join David and a string of other speakers at FAMS’ event tomorrow.

She said: “There are so many different elements to mental health. It’s not one size fits all and affects people in lots of different ways.

“With Wayne it was hidden and there was quite a lot of shame there.

“Being a man in his 30s he probably felt the stigma and that he couldn’t be a failure or a burden on other people.

“I think it’s really common that people don’t open up and talk but I’ve found that being around people who understand makes it a little easier.

Amy’s partner Wayne Ewer took his own life in 2018

“Like any traumatic experience, when you lose a loved one to suicide or you have suffered with your own mental health it can feel like such a lonely, isolating place.

“I found it easier to talk to people who weren’t directly connected to my situation.

“I felt I didn’t want to worry my mum and dad and family and friends and took a lot of comfort from speaking to people who had been through similar things. That’s where charities like FAMS are really important.

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“Meeting people face to face and just having that mutual understanding can really make a difference to those going through the grieving process and trying to recover from mental health struggles.”

Amy will join hundreds of people at FAMS’ Let’s Walk and Talk About Mental Health event at Strathclyde Park in Motherwell tomorrow.

She said: “That unification and bringing people together is really important. The pandemic has put a stop to a lot of these events and it’s become even harder to talk to each other and support each other.

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“The fact this event is happening is really important.

“You can really clear your head getting out for a walk. You don’t have to run a marathon or be hugely active, as long as you’re going out in the fresh air.

“Having these conversations aren’t always easy but sometimes having that distraction, like when you’re going for a walk, means these conversations can happen a bit more organically.”

FAMS flagship event will hear from a string of speakers including the Moira Anderson Foundation and Monica Lennon MSP and coincide with World Mental Health Day.

Co founder Ann Marie Cocozza said: “For me it’s one of the most important days in the calendar.

“Mental health is often the precursor to suicide attempts, addictions, self harm and other illnesses.

Charity co-founder Ann Marie Cocozza

“I wanted this event to focus on what can trigger mental health issues and the strategies for how we solve them.

“Everyone can be affected by a mental health illness, whether it is yourself who is experiencing it or a member of your family or someone else close to you.

“The support we’ve had for the event has been fantastic. People like David and Amy, and all our other speakers, just want to help other people and it’s amazing that they are sharing their experiences to do that.”

The free event runs between 12pm and 3pm.

If you’re struggling with mental health problems or suicidal thoughts you can visit www.fams.chat or call the helpline on 07736 326062.

Help is also available at www.breathingspace.scot or by calling 0800 83 85 87.

The Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day on 116 123.

Daily Record – Motherwell