A TALENTED footballer has spoken about his battle with depression – and urged others to reach out for help and support.

Bradley James, 24, planned to take his own life before being stopped in the nick of time.

Now he has gone public about his demons and hopes his story resonates with others facing a similar struggle.

Bradley, who lives in Tiptree, is a popular and well-regarded midfielder at Little Oakley, near Harwich.

He says bouts of depression have always been part of his life, but things reached a head last month, culminating with him planning a suicide attempt in his bedroom.

He wrote letters to his family and sent a message via social media to his team-mates at Oakley.

Crucially, that set alarm bells ringing and when his friends couldn’t make contact with him because his phone was off they got in touch with his brother, who raced upstairs and stopped him.

“When he found me, the overwhelming feeling was relief, knowing I didn’t have to go through with it,” said Bradley.

“Everything had reached a head and I had a complete breakdown.

“When I was 18 I tried taking my own life. I was on medication and took an overdose, combined with alcohol.

“But what happened that night followed a period of constantly feeling low, probably spanning two or three weeks.

“It was a build-up. I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel and I’d reached a point where I didn’t feel life was worth living anymore.

“I felt I’d exhausted all my options and reached a point of no return.

“I’d never had such a sustained period of depression and felt taking my own life was the only option.

“I’d planned what I was going to do.

“I’d written letters to my family, telling them how much I loved them, and sent a message to my team-mates at Oakley.

“It was a cry for help.

“I switched my phone off and it was only later, when I put it on again, that I saw how many missed calls and messages I’d had.

“Matt Carmichael, the Oakley manager, got in touch with my brother, as did three or four of my team-mates, and thankfully he came upstairs and into my room just in time.

“Had he been ten minutes later, it would have been too late.”

Bradley decided to share his story in a series of a heart-breaking posts online.

The response was “overwhelming” and vindicated his decision to be so public.

“In terms of my feelings, I’ve always been a closed shop,” he said.

“I’m a private person who tends to keep themself to themself. I don’t talk about how I feel.

“My family knew something was wrong but certainly didn’t know the full extent.

“For so many years, I’ve hidden and disguised my depression but now I realise I have to be open and honest – both for me and others.

“I’ve spent so much of my life pretending everything’s OK. But I can’t keep pretending and carrying this weight on my shoulders.

“In terms of my day-to-day life, my depression tends to come in waves. I have good days and bad.

“Certainly as an adult, I can’t remember a time when depression wasn’t part of my life and I’ve been on medication for anxiety since I was 17. Doctors have told me I have indigenous depression, which basically means it doesn’t matter what happens or what’s going on in my life – I’ll always have times when I feel low.

“From the outside, people would wonder why I feel the way I do. I’ve got a loving family, a girlfriend, lots of friends and a job.

“I’ve got all the things most people would want and that’s what makes it so scary.”

Bradley, who works in recruitment, feels the coronavirus pandemic – and not being able to play football – had a “massive impact” on his mental health.

“I have a public face, so to speak, and football is an easy place to hide my true feelings,” said the former Heybridge Swifts, Halstead Town, FC Clacton and Brightlingsea Regent player.

“It gives me an opportunity to adopt a different persona where I’m stronger and more confident.

“That’s why the last few weeks and months have been so hard.

“Not being able to play football has had a massive impact. I feel ridiculous saying that, because of everything that’s going on in the world.

“People have lost their lives and I understand the bigger picture and enormity of the situation.

“However, from a completely personal point of view, I’ve been lost without football. In addition to not playing and training, I live in Tiptree so have also felt geographically isolated from my friends and team-mates at Oakley.

“Exercise, in general, is a great release for me but not knowing when football will return is hard.

“Oakley, as a club, have been unbelievably supportive, though. I’m very fortunate to have some very good friends there and everyone keeps checking up on me, to make sure I’m OK.

“I hope my message reaches people who, like me, need help and support. If my story encourages others to do that, it will all be worthwhile.”

Bradley, a former pupil at Tiptree Heath Primary and Thurstable School, says he now feels more determined, focused and better-equipped to deal with his mental health issues.

He said: “I still have my down days and know it’s going to be a battle.

“My world hasn’t become a perfect place overnight but I feel so much more focused on getting through it.

“A big part of the reason for that is the love and support I’ve had since going public.

“It’s been completely overwhelming and I never expected such a response.

“I wondered if one or two might get in touch, saying they felt the same.

“Instead, I’ve had countless calls and messages and it’s been breathtaking – it’s blown my mind.

“I was so nervous about my initial posts.

“It’s something I laboured over for so long but I felt I’d reached a point where I didn’t care what people thought.

“I had to be honest, to bare my soul and speak openly about the way I feel.

“I’ve been humbled and would certainly encourage others to be open and help break down the taboo surrounding mental health.

“People need to feel they can open up and be honest about their feelings.”