Players taunted footballer over depression

Image source, SNS
Image caption,
David Cox previously played for Forfar Athletic

A footballer has described being taunted by fellow players and fans after he spoke out publicly about his mental health struggles.

David Cox, who plays for Scottish League Two side Cowdenbeath, said he had been called a "psycho" and mocked about "slitting his wrists".

The 28-year-old has called for the game's authorities to act on the abuse in the same way they do against racism.

The Scottish Football Association said reported cases would be investigated.

'Bad place'

Speaking to Radio Scotland's John Beattie, David Cox said he had been abused by football fans and colleagues alike since revealing that he had self-harmed and attempted suicide.

He said: "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'.

"I've had other players mentioning me slitting my wrists and stuff.

"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.

Media caption,
David Cox previously spoke to BBC Scotland Sport's reporter Chris McLaughlin

"It bothers me for the rest of the weekend. It gets me in a bad place again."

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The former Forfar Athletic striker said that on the pitch, opponents had used his depression to undermine his efforts during games.

He said: "Maybe after a bad tackle, or if it's been rough and stuff like that, [they'd say] 'watch your wrists wee man, oh, I better not wind you up cos you're a psycho'."

'Playing against you'

He added: "I've had them apologising and messaging me after games and stuff.

"What makes it even worse is that they will say things like 'I'm really sorry, I had a mate who killed himself through mental health', and I'm like 'why would you even mention that?'.

"It's all good and fine saying you're sorry, but to have that bit in you to mention it in the first place, when you know you've seen someone deal with that situation or you've seen people go through that kind of thing.

"Why does it make it ok for you to say it to someone else just because you don't like the way they're playing against you? It's a game of football."

The footballer said attempts to deal with the stigma surrounding mental health had to be matched with efforts to challenge other social issues, such as racism and bigotry.

He said: "It's just as bad as being racist for me.

"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 in a park, I will walk off."

'Achieving parity'

He said that unless clubs and the authorities were willing to take the taunts seriously, his abusers would continue to feel they could behave as they pleased.

"I'm not saying what I've been through is the worst thing that anybody could ever go through, because there's people out there that are worse off than me.

"But for me, I've been through the worst period of my life ever and to have people mocking you about it and making fun, and to think that it's ok and just shake hands with you after the game and it's forgotten about, it's not on."

A Scottish Football Association spokesman said: "The health and mental wellbeing of professional footballers in Scotland is of paramount importance to the Scottish FA.

"Since 2016, thanks to funding from William Hill, and in partnership with PFA Scotland and the Hampden Sports Clinic, we have offered Support Within Sport, a project aimed at combating mental health issues in Scottish football.

"It provides access to a specialist support network of experienced doctors, counsellors and psychologists, offered free of charge to clubs, players and coaches across Scotland.

"Any on-field instances of abuse related to mental health that are witnessed by a match official would result in the offending player's dismissal. The offending player would also be reported to the Compliance Officer for consideration of disciplinary proceedings.

"Equally, any incidents of abuse not witnessed by the match officials, but which are subsequently brought to the attention of the referee, would be similarly reported to the Compliance Officer for his consideration. We strongly encourage all players to report any such conduct in order that this investigative process can take place."

You can hear the full interview with David Cox on the John Beattie programme on BBC Radio Scotland from midday.