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Crawley Town winger Dean Cox reveals his own battle with mental health after returning to Leyton Orient to support charity match on Sunday

PUBLISHED: 12:15 28 May 2018

Crawley Town midfielder Dean Cox (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Crawley Town midfielder Dean Cox (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Simon O'Connor Photography

The 30-year-old was at the O’s again on Sunday to support Errol McKellar and Martin Ling’s ‘Big Match, Big Cause’ event and discussed the importance of talking

Players from Martin Ling's London Legends and Errol McKellar Celebrity XI leave the pitchPlayers from Martin Ling's London Legends and Errol McKellar Celebrity XI leave the pitch

Former Leyton Orient winger Dean Cox was back at Brisbane Road on Sunday to support Errol McKellar and Martin Ling’s ‘Big Match, Big Cause’ event and opened up about his own battles off the pitch this season.

The 30-year-old spent six years at the O’s and was a firm fans’ favourite before he left the club by mutual consent in September 2016.

Yesterday he was back at E10 to get behind the match in aid of Prostate Cancer UK and Hertfordshire Mind Network.

When discussing the ‘Big Match, Big Cause’ event, the current Crawley Town winger revealed he has recently seen a counsellor after a difficult 2017/18 campaign where he only played four times in League Two for the Sussex outfit.

Cox candidly said: “One of the reasons I am supporting this event is because I have had a bit of depression myself this season and I have got help.

“This season didn’t go according to plan and I found it hard not playing, I am not ashamed to say it, and I have another meeting with my counsellor on Tuesday and bless her she is brilliant and my message to others is talk.

“Most people who know me know me as a bubbly character and I am a bubbly character, but sometimes when you close the front door it is a bit different and it can be difficult, but my main reason for being at Leyton Orient again is for charity.

“We all know how Errol has done and I saw him on the NHS Heroes programme recently and he is a credit to Leyton Orient and so is Martin Ling.

Martin Ling (left) and Errol McKellar speak before the 'Big Match, Big Cause' event gets underway at Leyton OrientMartin Ling (left) and Errol McKellar speak before the 'Big Match, Big Cause' event gets underway at Leyton Orient

“One of the charities really close to me now is Mind because I am going through a bit of depression myself, so I’m really glad I could support the event and give something back.”

The one-time Brighton & Hove Albion youngster had hoped to feature in the charity match for Ling’s London Legends, but a clause in his contract at Crawley prevented him doing so.

Cox was looking forward to getting his boots on again at Brisbane Road, but enjoyed a different role on the sidelines.

He added: “There was a clause in my contract which meant I couldn’t play, but the next best thing was sitting next to Martin and going through our tactics.

“It was great to be back. Leyton Orient is a fantastic club and I love it to bits and I enjoyed shouting at Kevin Lisbie from the sidelines!”

While McKellar has raised the awareness of Prostate Cancer UK, Ling has also played his part in supporting Hertfordshire Mind Network after they helped him when he had depression in 2013 and 2015.

Cox was planning on speaking with O’s director of football after Sunday’s event about the best people to get help from, but discussed how he already feels better after seeing a counsellor.

The winger, who made 275 appearances for Orient, said: “My main message to people is to talk no matter what you are going through – if you feel in trouble or you are depressed about anything.

“My family has been a great support and my Mum was in the crowd at Brisbane Road and it is hard in football.

“Everyone thinks you have to be a macho role model and sometimes you do need help and it took me a while to realise I needed it, but I am getting it now and I am sure I will come out the other side.

“I feel better, I have only had two sessions, but I am looking forward to Tuesday already and getting more things off my chest and moving forward.

“Days like Sunday show how powerful speaking can be and how powerful charities can be. I hope we can get one, two, three or maybe even fifty people getting help after this – that would be great.”

The fact Cox, a high-profile footballer in the lower leagues of English football, has spoken out already shows the importance of Sunday’s event.

A lot of good work has taken place in football when it comes to mental health, but it is still a taboo subject and Cox is not only help himself, but helping other professionals by talking out about his own problems.

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