Steve Smith Sr has revealed his battle with depression during his NFL career, saying he "routinely felt trapped, inferior and alone".
The retired wide receiver has written a piece for the league's official website, titled "My personal battle with depression", in which he detailed his mental health struggles that date back to the early years of his career.
Smith said he felt "mentally, physically and emotionally broken" despite success on and off the field during 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers and three with the Baltimore Ravens.
Noting the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain that shocked the world in early June, Smith commended retired safety Brian Dawkins for touching on the subject during his enshrinement speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony last weekend.
"Now more than ever, it's important to be honest about mental health," Smith wrote.
"The first time I stepped into a counselling session was in 2002, when I saw a sports psychologist. I was able to retain what helped me reach my peak performance and able to get in the zone, shutting out the noise and negative thoughts on the field.
"I did that with flying colors, but I wasn't able to grasp that concept in my life outside of the game. I couldn't quiet the noise and negative thoughts in my mind.
"It wasn't until I stepped away from the game at the end of the 2016 NFL season that I really began to take ownership and understand my personal journey with depression.
"One common question I contemplated through the highs and lows was simple, but felt so complex: 'What's wrong with me?'"
Revealing how he now "finally feels free", Smith continued: "Generally, throughout much of my life, unhappiness, constant self-criticism and an inability to let old blunders go weighed so heavily on my mind.
"I can recall hundreds of these moments, on and off the gridiron, when I felt inept. It really took a toll on my mental state.
"In 2013, my final year in Carolina, I hit a point where I was so overwhelmed that I wasn't sure what to do or how to handle my emotions. Small things in my daily life impacted me in a big way, and I was a cynic of everything and everyone.
"It was at that point I decided - with hesitancy - to try counselling for non-football related matters for the first time in my life."
"I continued counselling sessions when I got to Baltimore the following year. I saw small changes in myself, but even more, I started seeing all my flaws. That's a hard thing to accept for anyone.
"After tearing my Achilles midway through what was to be my final season, I remember sitting in the hospital bed recalling dropped passes from 10 years prior. Mind you, at the time of my injury, I needed just 49 catches to hit 1,000 for my career.
"But now, a year and a half has passed since my last NFL game, and for the first time in my life, I finally feel free."
|Simmons lauds influence of ´big brother´ LeBron|
|Athletics pull even with Astros in AL West|
|Gordon confirms Cleveland Browns return|
|Scherzer, Harper lead Nationals past Marlins|
|Stephen Curry wants to finish his career with Warriors|
|Mets set franchise record in 20-run victory|
|Eagles QB Nick Foles suffers shoulder strain|
|Golf behind Timberwolves´ draft mishap in 2009? Curry thinks so|
|Puig suspended, Hundley fined for starting Dodgers-Giants brawl|
|Yankees slugger Judge ´frustrated´ with wrist injury|
|Marlins pitcher Urena handed six-game ban for intentionally hitting Acuna|
|Giants medical team discovered tumour in Brittan Golden´s mouth|
|Braves survive skirmish, loss of Acuna to top Marlins|
|Foles isn´t worried about Brady´s handshake snub|
|Eli Manning on Jalen Ramsey´s comments: ´Who?´|
|Judge´s recovery taking longer than expected|
|Rockets GM: LeBron James is ´the greatest ever´|
|Jaguars DB Ramsey calls Bills QB Allen ´trash´|
|Steelers QB Roethlisberger in concussion protocol|
|Braves´ Acuna Jr. has arrived as a true MLB star|
|Roethlisberger evaluated for concussion after practice|
|Brady ´absolutely´ expects to face Eagles|
|Wentz ´gonna be close´ for Eagles opener|
|Cleveland ´victory fridges´ to unlock beer if Browns finally win|
|Mariners reinstate Cano after 80-game suspension|
|Predators sign Ryan Ellis to eight-year, $50M contract|
|Rookie LB Roquan Smith finally signs Bears contract|
|DeGrom strikes out 12, Mets hit 5 homers in win over Yankees|
|Packers QB Rodgers doesn´t regret criticising team-mates|
|Indians OF Martin recovering from life-threatening bacterial infection|
|Shoulder injury sends Royals starter Duffy to DL|
|Yankees place Sabathia on DL with right knee inflammation|
|49ers to sign veteran RB Alfred Morris, Kyle Shanahan says|
|Veteran Carmelo Anthony pens one-year Rockets deal|
|Sale strikes out 12 in Red Sox´s win over Orioles|
|Wade will only return to Miami Heat|
|Marlins´ Holaday enters as pinch hitter, hits walk-off double in extras|
|Former Cavaliers guard Thomas apologises for Cleveland comment|
|Curry makes $25,000 donation after missing Web.com Tour cut|
|Jamal Crawford would be ´honoured´ to play for 76ers|
|Wall: Wizards equal to Celtics, 76ers, Raptors after LeBron left the East|
|Dolphins´ Kenny Stills calls out NFL for ´blackballing´ Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid|
|Gausman shuts down Brewers, Red Sox score 19|
|Curry misses cut, finishes last at Web.com Tour event|
|Paul excited to be play with Carmelo in Houston|
|Angels star Trout placed on DL with right wrist inflammation|
|Redskins rookie Guice out for season with torn ACL|
|Colts´ Luck on long-awaited return: ´I was nervous´|
|Sixers rookie Zhaire Smith has foot surgery|
|NFL players protest during anthem, Kaepernick tweets support|
|Astros slip to 0-4 against Paxton with loss to Mariners|
|Dez Bryant tells Browns: I´m coming to visit the Land!|
|WATCH: Odell Beckham Jr. turns heads with one-handed catch|
|Leonard breaks silence to thank Spurs and Popovich|
|DeGrom throws six-inning gem in Mets win|
|MLB wrap: Jacob deGrom throws a 6-inning gem to hold MLB best ERA in Mets win|
|Andre Iguodala supports LeBron James´ decision to join Lakers|
|Rams GM: Aaron Donald in ´same zip code´ as team with contract talks|
|LeBron James´ Lakers to face Curry´s Warriors on Christmas Day|
|49ers to honour Clark with statues depicting ´The Catch´|
|Aaron Rodgers upset at ´p*** poor´ effort during practice session|
|Red Sox top Blue Jays in extra innings after rough Giles outing|
|Ex-Panthers receiver Smith reveals battle with depression|
|Sixers rookie Smith suffers foot injury|
|Rockets´ Paul donates $2.5m to Wake Forest|
|Lynn blanks White Sox in first Yankees start|
|Rivers: I don’t have a number in my head for retirement|
|Cardinals lose Shipley to season-ending injury|
|Falcons sign safety Allen to three-year extension|
|Landry: Beckham Jr. would play for Browns|