QPR defender Steven Caulker reveals battles with depression and alcohol

QPR defender Steven Caulker has told the Guardian he contemplated taking his own life as he tried to deal with alcohol and gambling addictions and mental health problems.

Caulker, 25, said he felt football was still not doing enough to understand mental health and urged players not to be afraid to speak out if they were experiencing difficulties.

The former England international, who has also played for Tottenham and Cardiff and had a spell on loan at Liverpool, said he had struggled badly with depression during spells out with injury, saying this year "was almost the end."

"I've sat here for years hating myself and never understood why I couldn't just be like everyone else," he added.

"This year was almost the end. I felt for large periods there was no light at the end of the tunnel."

He said he had "lost a hell of a lot of money" in December, adding: "I contemplated suicide a lot in that period. A dark time. Everything I'd gone through in football, where had it taken me? All the guilt, the embarrassment, the shame, the public humiliation in the papers ... and for what?

"I reckon I've lost 70 percent of what I've earned. When you lose that amount of money, the guilt... that's so many lives you could have changed. There was no escape, no way out, other than to 'leave.'"

Caulker, who after receiving help has not drunk alcohol since March or gambled since December, said the game needed to improve its response to problems including depression, adding: "Football does not deal well with mental illness.

"Maybe it's changing, but the support mechanisms are so often not there.

"I've spoken to so many players who have been told to go to the Sporting Chance clinic and they've refused because they know, if they take time off, they'll lose their place in the team. That dissuades people from getting help. You feel obliged to get on with things."

Caulker said he would advise those in need of help to contact players' union the PFA, speak to their manager "and not be scared about being dropped if they are feeling like I did."

He added: "Be brave enough to say you need help before it's too late."

And he thanked QPR boss Ian Holloway for telling him to stay put when a possible transfer to Lokomotiv Moscow emerged in January.

The former Blackpool manager told him: "How anyone could think sending you there would be a good idea is beyond me. You need to get yourself right."