Former NFL linebacker Marcus Smith II has opened up about a near-suicide attempt in 2018 when he almost drove off a cliff, his lifelong battle with depression, and his efforts to encourage men to face their mental health issues.

‘I began to realize that, as an athlete, the myth of mental toughness is perpetuated as an asset — or in some cases when a player isn’t perceived as tough enough, a deal-breaker,’ he wrote in an essay for The Players’ Tribune. ‘And for many players it can lead us to struggle in the shadows.’ 

As he explained in The Players’ Tribune essay, Smith’s journey from an NFL linebacker to a mental health advocate began during his stint with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017 and 2018.

The former first-round pick had struggling with anxiety, depression, and while driving to a training camp practice on August 16, 2018, had decided to take his own life by driving off the road. Were it not for a well-timed call from his wife, who was seven-months pregnant with their daughter, Rai, Smith doesn’t believe he’d be alive today.

A first-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, Smith went on to become a mental health advocate, counselor, and an author with the upcoming release of his first children's book

A first-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, Smith went on to become a mental health advocate, counselor, and an author with the upcoming release of his first children's book

A first-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, Smith went on to become a mental health advocate, counselor, and an author with the upcoming release of his first children’s book 

Smith now has a young daughter, Rai (pictured), whom he says he never would have met had his wife and mother-in-law not called him in 2018 as he contemplated suicide

Smith now has a young daughter, Rai (pictured), whom he says he never would have met had his wife and mother-in-law not called him in 2018 as he contemplated suicide

Smith now has a young daughter, Rai (pictured), whom he says he never would have met had his wife and mother-in-law not called him in 2018 as he contemplated suicide  

‘It’s hard to explain how I had gotten to that point,’ Smith wrote. ‘I’d begun to hate football. I’d begun to hate what football had become to me. I thought that all the stress, the anxiety attacks, the fear … I just thought they would all go away if I put the car in drive, took my hands off the wheel and just let it go. I thought I’d finally be free.

‘I sat there at the top of the hill, and I got close. Really close. But then my phone rang. It was my wife. She was seven months pregnant with our first child at the time. I was in such a bad place — I was so lost — that it didn’t matter what she said to me.

‘I rushed her off the phone. Told her not to worry. I edged the car closer to the top of the slope. I put a wheel over the edge. I vividly remember it hovering there.’

Then Smith’s mother-in-law called.

‘I could tell right away that she knew something was wrong,’ he wrote. ‘There was this tone — almost a rhythm — to her voice that just … it hit me. So I told her the truth. I felt like I had to.

‘The answer I had in my head made sense to me, but I couldn’t articulate it to her,’ he continued. ‘I didn’t have an answer that would get her off the phone. So, she kept me there, or maybe I kept her there. And eventually I backed the car away from the edge of the cliff and drove to the facility.’

Smith doesn't remember everything about the day he nearly killed himself, but he knows he didn't suit up for practice. Rather, Smith explained, he confessed his suicidal thoughts to trainers, who alerted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (pictured). Instead of questioning Smith's sanity or commitment to football, Carroll dispensed with any professional concerns and said the then-26-year-old should worry about himself and his family

Smith doesn't remember everything about the day he nearly killed himself, but he knows he didn't suit up for practice. Rather, Smith explained, he confessed his suicidal thoughts to trainers, who alerted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (pictured). Instead of questioning Smith's sanity or commitment to football, Carroll dispensed with any professional concerns and said the then-26-year-old should worry about himself and his family

Smith doesn’t remember everything about the day he nearly killed himself, but he knows he didn’t suit up for practice. Rather, Smith explained, he confessed his suicidal thoughts to trainers, who alerted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (pictured). Instead of questioning Smith’s sanity or commitment to football, Carroll dispensed with any professional concerns and said the then-26-year-old should worry about himself and his family

Smith doesn’t remember everything about that day, but he knows he didn’t suit up for practice. Rather, Smith explained, he confessed his suicidal thoughts to trainers, who alerted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

Instead of questioning Smith’s sanity or commitment to football, Carroll dispensed with any professional concerns and said the then-26-year-old should worry about himself and his family.

‘I told him, ‘Coach, I can’t do this right now. I need to get help,’ he wrote. ‘I had tears pouring down my face and was barely able to express myself. I just felt hopeless.

‘He said, ‘Football doesn’t matter anymore, Marcus. All you need to worry about is getting yourself healthy. Because you as a person, you as an individual … you have a family to protect. That’s all that matters.’

The Seahawks released Smith, which he says was a blessing. Not only did they find him a therapist, whom he credits with saving his life, but his release allowed Smith to focus on the roots of his problems, which he believes began as a child in Columbus, Georgia when he began having panic attacks as an eight-year-old.

His parents’ divorce only exacerbated things.

The best part about facing his mental health issues, Smith explained, is having a health relationship with his two-year-old daughter Rai (pictured)

The best part about facing his mental health issues, Smith explained, is having a health relationship with his two-year-old daughter Rai (pictured)

The best part about facing his mental health issues, Smith explained, is having a health relationship with his two-year-old daughter Rai (pictured)

Smith continued to battle anxiety issues as he became a top recruit and a star at the University of Louisville. And because he was raised to hide any sign of weakness, Smith was sure to downplay his problems in his own mind.

‘Now, though, for the first time in my life, I am truly mentally tough,’ he wrote. ‘Not because I’m ‘acting like a man,’ but because I have rid myself of the stigmas that surround seeking help. I was ashamed at first. But now I know that I am strongest when I’m being helped by those who want the best for me.’

Smith says he is now thriving as a husband and father. He even has an upcoming children's book titled 'Bathtime with Rai'

Smith says he is now thriving as a husband and father. He even has an upcoming children's book titled 'Bathtime with Rai'

Smith says he is now thriving as a husband and father. He even has an upcoming children’s book titled ‘Bathtime with Rai’

Although he retired from the NFL in 2019 after a stint with Washington, Smith may not be completely done with football and has reportedly drawn interest from the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders. However, he’s primarily focused on his new mentorship program and is now on the speaking circuit with a series titled ‘Men Talking Health.’ 

Best of all, Smith writes, he’s now thriving as a husband and father.

He even has an upcoming children’s book titled ‘Bathtime with Rai.’

‘As a modern black father, being present in my daughter’s life is really important for me,’ Smith said in a press release. ‘Every moment — from me giving her a bath to reading to her before bed — are moments that she’ll never forget, and I wanted to translate that experience into something that was relatable for Black fathers and Black daughters everywhere.’

In his Players Tribune essay, Smith goes on to discuss mentoring others, such as one man who reached out over Instagram with similar problems. And it’s there that Smith has found his new purpose away from the football field.

‘So, if you’re in it right now, like really in it, and you can’t see the end of it,’ he wrote, ‘just know that I’m here. I’m still here.’

It's been six years since Smith was taken by the Eagles in the first round of the draft, but as he explained in his essay, he's much more comfortable now focusing on his family life

It's been six years since Smith was taken by the Eagles in the first round of the draft, but as he explained in his essay, he's much more comfortable now focusing on his family life

It’s been six years since Smith was taken by the Eagles in the first round of the draft, but as he explained in his essay, he’s much more comfortable now focusing on his family life 

Source: Daily Mail

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