Former Stoke City midfielder Lee Hendrie has revealed he tried to kill himself “five or six times” – and recalled how we woke up on a life support machine after one attempt.
The dad-of-five – remembered as a key signing, even on loan, as Tony Pulis started to build the club up in 2006 – made several suicide attempts after his financial woes escalated to the point where his mum’s house was repossessed.
Now aged 43, he has opened up on his struggles to Paul Merson and Vinnie Jones.
The three former footballers, all of whom have battled depression or addiction, had an emotional chat on episode two of ITV show Harry’s Heroes.
“I fell deep down into depression really,’ said Hendrie, who made one appearance for England in 1998.
“I ended up going bankrupt, my house got repossessed, they repossessed my mum’s house and that just destroyed me.
“That was it then, I got up one day and tried to kill myself. I woke up on a life-support machine, my body had shut down. Then I tried to do it again.
“I just couldn’t grasp what was going on. Still now, every single day I struggle, I still take anti-depressants. I didn’t even want to talk about it.”
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He added: “It was really selfish of me to do that. I’ve got five children and to think I was going to leave all that behind. I just felt like I had let everyone down really.”
Reflecting on opening up, he said: “I’m just really emotional, just putting things into perspective… you can be the hardest man in the world and still struggle.
“A problem shared is a problem halved, there’s no doubt about that, and I will get there. I’ll make sure I do because I want to be a happy man again.”
The fellow former pros were keen to offer support.
Jones said: “I mean I had the same thing but I sort of came out of it at the other end – and you will.
“Day by day you do progress.
“I lost my wife. We had a six-year battle and she lost it in the end. I’ve got nothing in my arms right now and there ain’t no houses and money which could come in between that – and that’s what you grasp.
“Sometimes you’ve got to wipe your mouth, draw a line under it and say that’s that – and now you’re above the line.”
Merson, also a hero at Villa, hoped that talking about problems would help.
“With Lee, you wouldn’t know and that’s the biggest danger with depression,” he said.
“You think everything is all right and it ain’t all right.
“You know you can still see he’s struggling. Depression is a bad, bad thing to have and you need help.
“You need to talk, you know, instead of keeping it all in all the time.”
Hendrie has also been looking back on his career in an interview for BirminghamLive’s Aston Villa podcast Claret and Blue – and admits it is a long-standing regret that he did not sign for Stoke on a permanent basis.
He was a talismanic figure in 2006/07 as the team made a surge for the play-offs – but he then joined Sheffield United from Aston Villa. He went on to play for clubs including Leicester, Derby and Blackpool – but didn’t make more than 20 league appearances for any.
He “hit rock bottom” 10 years ago when he realised his house and that of his mum would have to be repossessed.
Hendrie’s property portfolio, which had once been worth £10m, was swamped by huge debt, according to The Guardian.
In an interview with the publication, Hendrie said “could easily name five, six times where I tried to do that in the bad period” and admitted his wife Emma “went through an awful lot”.
He said: “The football was almost over and my head was gone.
“I’d been trying to sell property but the housing market crashed. I got to the stage where I just wanted to end it all. I’d hit rock bottom.”
Hendrie has more recently been working for Sky Sports as a pundit, and said he was grateful for the opportunity to put his dark days behind him.
“Things can be fantastic one day or one week and then it can turn,” he told The Guardian. “I can sit in bed for three days and not want to get up.
“I’m my own worst enemy. I don’t feel I deserve any plaudits. But I’m proud I’ve become someone different.
“I’ve ended up getting myself into a great job working for Sky Sports. I’ve got to thank lots of people that have taken a punt on me and realised I’m not that person I’m painted out to be.
“For all the bad press, I’m still a human being. I’m striving to do this new job well but I always have that fear things could go wrong again.”
Harry’s Heroes: Euro Having A Laugh tracks a team of former England internationals, exploring issues faced by the retired footballers during or after their playing careers.