A Scottish football player has revealed how he has been mercilessly mocked by fellow players and fans after speaking out about his mental health problems.
David Cox, who plays for League Two side Cowdenbeath, said he had been called a “psycho” and taunted about “slitting his wrists” during matches.
The 28-year-old said if the abuse continued he may simply walk off the pitch, as the uproar this would create would be the only effective way to draw attention to the issue.
In May last year the striker, who previously played for Forfar Athletic, said he had suffered from depression since the age of 15 and had tried to kill himself as recently as 2016.
But in an interview with BBC, he said his decision to speak out about his problems was now being used against him by opposition fans and even other players.
“I had fans shouting on the pitch to me shortly after I did my story, ‘Go and hang yourself and do it right this time’,” he said. “I’ve had other players mention me slitting my wrists and stuff like that.
“You get the fans that come in and pay their money, they say what they want and then they go home and forget about it and I’m the one that it affects. It bothers me for the rest of the weekend. It gets me in a bad place again.”
The striker said he was “just trying to make a living playing football” and that such comments would be completely unacceptable if they were directed at someone in another profession.
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“It’s just as bad as being racist for me,” he added. “If you were racist on the pitch, if a fan was racist at football games, you’d get done for it.
“People don’t see mental health as an illness, you can’t physically see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
“It’s got to the point that if somebody shouts it to me again on the park, I would walk off. Maybe something like that does need to happen for people to start catching on.”
He said the comments put him off his game, revealing that opposition players had told him “watch your wrists wee man” and “I better not wind you up because you’re a psycho”.
Michelle Evans from PFA Scotland, the union for professional footballers, said players who experienced similar abuse should report the fans or other players responsible.
She added that football was “unique” in that fans felt they could say whatever they wanted on the terraces with virtual impunity.
“We’re not being the fun police and saying people shouldn’t be allowed to voice their opinions, but there is a point where you cross the line and it goes too far,” she said.
“Nobody should be subjected to any form of abuse, whether it’s when they’re playing a football match or walking down the street.”
In a survey carried out by the PFA last year, 64 per cent of professional players in Scotland said they or a team mate had struggled with mental health issues.
A Cowdenbeath spokesman said: “We are aware of the issues that David has experienced in the past. Cowdenbeath FC naturally condemns abuse of any individual who may be targeted in such a way.
“It is now the 21st century and such blinkered behaviour is as unacceptable in football as it is unacceptable in society at large.
“Cowdenbeath FC already has its own published unacceptable behaviour policy and we would look to take firm action if there were to be any instances of such behaviour at any of our matches.”