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Alex Scott says she is smiling again after learning to cope with online abuse

Alex Scott

Former England international Alex Scott said she turned to alcohol in response to social media abuse before seeking therapy.

The 35-year-old was the victim of online trolls when she retired from playing and moved into punditry with the BBC and Sky.

“When I retired, getting trolling, I found that I was turning to drink to try and hide everything, hide what I was feeling,” she said.

“I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t tell my mum because I didn’t want her to worry or put that stress on her. I was just that person (who thought) ‘I can look after myself, I can deal with stuff’ but obviously sometimes that’s the wrong way.

“I got to a dark place and it was over Christmas, that’s when I was like ‘I can’t carry on like this, it’s not me, I need to seek help’ and that led me into therapy.”

Scott was speaking to Watford captain Troy Deeney as part of the Heads Up campaign’s #SoundofSupport series about her struggles. The campaign seeks to encourage football fans to feel confident and comfortable in reaching out for mental health support if they need it.

Scott added: “I want to take that stigma away from it. Now when I talk about mental health, straight away I’m smiling because I know what it’s done for me to leave that place. I’m content. I’m happy, and I’ve used the tools that I’ve learned to be in that place.”

Deeney, who served a prison sentence for affray in 2012, told Scott he receives therapy to combat his own drinking, and for traumas he suffered earlier in his life.

“I understood that when I started speaking I slept easier,” he said.

Watford captain Troy Deeney has spoken openly about the therapy he receives

Watford captain Troy Deeney has spoken openly about the therapy he receives (Handout/Heads Up)

“I used to live on four hours’ sleep. When I have a therapy session I’ll sleep for 10 hours, because I’m knackered, but it’s all the weight coming out of me.”

In a separate conversation, former England defender Rio Ferdinand and current England rugby captain Owen Farrell discussed the differing attitudes towards opening up that they encountered.

Ferdinand, who retired in 2015 and broke into professional football in the late 1990s, said sharing concerns when he was playing would have been interpreted as weakness.

“The shirt was a heavy shirt when I played for England,” he said.

“More so than Man United… In my generation, (we’d) never go into a room on our own, sit there and go ‘Guys, listen, cup final tomorrow, I’m so nervous’.

Rio Ferdinand admits playing for England was often a big weight to bear mentally

Rio Ferdinand admits playing for England was often a big weight to bear mentally (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“Because everyone would sit there and go ‘What?’. And almost you’d look at him to say ‘He’s a weak link, he’s going to be a nightmare tomorrow for us’. Now looking back, I think ‘maybe I could have helped a few people through’.”

Farrell said now there was more encouragement to share thoughts and fears.

“We always have a chat the night before… just players, and I enjoy them,” he said.

“The main thing for us is to speak what we are thinking. And if that’s something that makes you a bit more vulnerable then that’s good. Because if you’re thinking it, I’d probably think a few more are as well.”