Hope Powell has reiterated Albion’s commitment to helping players cope with stress and anxiety.

The women’s team manager has expressed her support for defender Fern Whelan, who has revealed she has suffered with depression.

Whelan has sought help from a counsellor recommended to her by the PFA.

She has struggled with injuries, which she admits have got her down.

But she is now back to fitness and was on the bench for Albion’s 0-0 draw with her former club Everton in FA WSL on Sunday.

In an interview for women’s football website shekicks.net, the former Notts County star said: “I have struggled for about five years now with anxiety, stress and sometimes depression.

“Football is usually my relief from this but unfortunately due to injuries over the years I haven’t had much relief from it and injuries have actually made it worse.

“It would affect me to the point that I would have sleepless nights and struggled to concentrate when in training.

“I could not focus in team meetings, on the pitch and it affected my relationships with my team-mates.

“I am quite an outgoing character but, when I was feeling down, I would not want to socialise and preferred to isolate myself.

“My main problem was having difficulty controlling my emotions and would tear up quite a lot no matter where I was, be it on the training pitch or be it at home alone.

“I didn’t tell my coach or team-mates until very recently.

“My coach knows and now a few of my team-mates but this only happened very recently. I keep it to myself as I don’t like people knowing that I’m struggling.

The Argus:

“My coach was very understanding and very helpful.

“It helped her to understand what I was going through and she allowed me time off if I needed it.

“I tried not to take too much time off but some days being around my team-mates was too hard so it was good to have the support and be given that option from my coach.”

Albion have been supportive to winger Anthony Knockaert when he suffered issues away from football.

Skipper Bruno and manager Chris Hughton combined to ensure he had the help he needed.

Whelan has received similar backing.

Powell told The Argus: “I think we all support her, it’s not just about me.

“We have a team of people. I think certainly one of the qualities of Brighton is it is about the person first and football is second.

“That is what I’m like, football is secondary.

“People have got to be happy outside this to be happy in it.

“That is a priority for me.

“She is getting the help she needed and the club will support her and other players through what they need.

“If they are happy to be here and play, then that’s great.

“If they are not, then that’s also their decision.

“We love doing his but there is more to life than football.

“It has been ongoing. We talk to players to see how they are feeling.”

Whelan missed out on a winner’s medal with Everton in the League Cup in 2008 when injury kept her out of the final.

She also missed the 2012 and 2013 season with a knee problem.

Powell gave her a first England call-up and she went on to win three caps.

But further cruciate ligament problems ended any hope of playing in the 2012 Olympics.

She has made one start in the current WSL campaign and her call-up on Sunday was the first time she had been in a matchday squad since late October.

Powell said: “Fern has had injury all through her career, been really unfortunate.

“She is a brilliant young prospect, having worked with her with England.

“To manage the injuries she has had is challenging.

“Sometimes people just need a little bit of help.”