Kelly Smith on battle that led her to help those with mental health struggles

Arsenal Women’s legend Kelly Smith has opened up on the mental health issues that have led her to become a patron of a charity set up in the name of one of her biggest fans.

Smith spent 10 years with the Gunners across three spells in north London and is also England Women’s record goalscorer.

The 46-year-old spent a significant portion of her career in the United States, playing for several clubs in the NWSL.

It was during that spell across the Atlantic that Smith suffered from the mental health issues that have led to her becoming a patron for We Mind & Kelly Matters.

Now, the former Arsenal star has opened up on why she wants to help those who are experiencing problems with their mental health.

“I was in a really low, on a slippery slope down a dark path and really struggling with my mental health. I felt really isolated out in America,” she told Mirror Sport.

“I didn’t speak to anybody, I was drinking every day, wanted to kill myself, fortunately didn’t go through with it. But just those deep, dark moments that I had, it’s just a scary place to be in.

“So, I’ve been there, I’ve experienced it and if I can help anybody out that’s suffering or has suffered in the past, encourage them to get help or speak to people then that’s what I want to do.”

As a result of her experiences and recovery, Smith decided to become a patron of a charity set up in the name of Kelly Hewitt, who tragically took her own life in December 2018.

“She was a big Arsenal fan and I was one of her idols,” Smith added.

“It just struck me. Her parents wrote to me and told me what had happened and I wrote back, the dialogue went back and forth and they asked me to be a patron.

“I was just absolutely gobsmacked and honoured, the fact they would ask me to do that. I never got the chance to meet Kelly.

“But I knew that she was a wonderful girl who liked to play hockey, football, cricket, just an all-round bubbly character. The aim of the charity is to educate and support people with mental health issues.”

The Arsenal legend has also recently become a brand ambassador for betting company BK8, who have made a significant donation to We Mind & Kelly Matters, an action Smith has hailed.

“I’m a brand ambassador for BK8. I’ve just come on board and straight away they wanted to know what my interests were,” she said.

“Obviously, I’m an advocate for mental health and a patron for We Mind Kelly Matters and they are very generously donating £15,000 towards this charity.

“I’ve suffered with mental health issues in my past when I was playing football. I really struggled, went down a deep, dark path.

“So, this money will just help young children to get counselling and raise awareness that there’s a charity if they’re struggling, who they can reach out to and get support from.”

Smith has also encouraged anybody struggling with their mental health to speak to someone in the first step to recovery.

“Open up, say how you’re feeling to a friend, a relative, a stranger. It just really helps to offload what you’re thinking because it can be so negative in your mind at times,” she said.

“That’s the only voice that you hear, but if you speak to somebody, they can shift your mindset a little bit and guide you in the right direction.”

Kelly Smith is an official ambassador for the brand BK8

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