Paul Merson played for Arsenal, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and was player-manager at Walsall

Former England midfielder Paul Merson says he hopes to help people struggling with their mental health by revealing that his own battle left him wanting to take his own life.

Kick-offs at this weekend’s FA Cup third-round matches will be delayed for 60 seconds to prompt fans to consider their wellbeing.

Merson, 51, says he has been sober for a year after dealing with alcoholism.

“Now I know I have an illness. Before, I used to beat myself up,” he said.

Merson was capped 21 times by England between 1991 and 1998 and scored 78 goals in 327 games for Arsenal.

He previously spoke about his gambling addiction in March 2019.

Writing in his Daily Star column, Merson added: “When I see this weekend’s FA Cup games kicking off a minute later I will remember that time when things got dark and think: ‘Thank god that’s not how I feel any more.’

“This time last year, I wanted to kill myself.

“I don’t want to kill myself any more. I don’t have those thoughts.

“I’m telling you this because I hope it helps someone.”

In 2003, Merson received help from the Sporting Chance clinic, set up by former Arsenal and England team-mate Tony Adams, after saying he was unable to stop betting and had run up huge losses, including £30,000 on the outcome of one football match.

In 2012, he was given a 14-month-driving ban after pleading guilty to drink-driving following a motorway crash.

“I was on my own, which is not the best place when you’re down. Isolating yourself, that’s where the illness wants you,” Merson said.

“On Monday, I’ll have been a year sober. I keep my life to one day at a time.”

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by any issues raised in this story, help and support is available at BBC Action Line.


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