Celtic captain Neil Lennon has revealed that the hardest part of facing up to his depression was breaking the news to his family.

In a candid interview to be broadcast on Radio One this Wednesday, the former Northern Ireland internationalist speaks of his pride at the way in which he has handled his illness while remaining ever in the public eye.

Speaking as a contributor to the two-part documentary Demons, Going Around My Head, recorded for the Colin Murray show, Lennon admitted too many people still fail to understand mental health problems.

He said: "The greatest quote is pull yourself together' or shake yourself out of it'. That can be the worst thing that anyone can say to you, because you are fighting it yourself and the last thing you need is somebody putting you down - you are feeling bad enough as it is.

"You never think you are going to get out of it. My mother and sister have suffered from it, so they are a great help, but trying to actually explain to them I had depression was one of the hardest things I had to do."

In his autobiography Man And Bhoy, published last year, Lennon revealed he had been suffering from depression since 2000, when he playing for Leicester City.

His condition was diagnosed by Celtic club doctor Roddy McDonald after the move to his boyhood heroes, though he chose to stall going public for fear, he says, of people accusing him of being depressed every time his performance level dipped.

The documentary also features Scot Stuart Braithwaite, frontman of rock group Mogwai, and former Beta Band singer Steve Mason, urging anyone feeling depressed to confide in someone they feel comfortable with.

Lennon added: "It's very difficult to come forward and talk about it, but for a start, don't be ashamed, it is an illness, it's like getting the flu or breaking a leg. It happens, and it can happen for no reason.

"I'm proud of it, I'm proud of being able to deal with it and still be in the public eye and be pretty successful at what I do. We all have our crosses in life to bear and maybe depression is mine. If it is, then so be it, I will deal with it as best I can."

Mental health charities paid tribute to Lennon's openness and hoped his views would encourage Scots to seek help with problems, as the country has the highest suicide rate in the UK.

Sandra McDougall, Influence and Change manager with the Scottish Association for Mental Health, said: "One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some time in their lives - so any one of us, or people close to us, might be affected.

"If people can see someone with such a high public profile talk openly, and without shame, then that might help challenge some of the myths that are around. It might also encourage people who are struggling themselves to seek help."

Linda Dunion, campaign director for See Me, said Lennon appealed to a key demographic. She said: "Everybody needs to hear this, but young men in particular. The single best thing you can do is confide in somebody you can trust and, on the other side of the coin, if someone confides in you, you have to be able to listen without judging them."

Celtic season ticket holder Michael McLaughlin, 24, a fervent Lennon fan, said: "It was totally surprising to discover he was dealing with depression, considering how strong a character he appears to be. It is just something you don't associate with a guy like him. In speaking out, he opened himself up to abuse so he really has to be admired."