AT seventeen, Sanjeev Kohli didn’t have a name for what kept him in bed for the duration of the Christmas holidays.

He just knew he felt utterly worthless. By the time he was in his 30s, with a wife, a young family and a home, there were days when putting his socks on was the achievement of the day.

He just blamed it on work, or a lack of it.

This year, in his mid 40s, one of the best-known actors in the country, his career running full tilt, wanted the world to end for him and everyone he loved.

He knows the name for his condition, now. And he wants to help others in the same situation by finally calling that black dog by its name.

“I’d always been a pessimistic person, ever since I can remember,” says the 46-year-old actor and writer, best known for playing shopkeeper Navid Harrid in television comedy Still Game. “I always remember worrying about everything. That whole Christmas, when I was 17 and at college, I didn’t get out of bed. I never had a name for it, I just knew this was part of who I am. It wasn’t until I was a bit older, maybe eight or nine years ago when I had a crisis that I started to call it depression. It started out as being career related, then it developed into something else.”

Something else, is a recurring tussle with periods of mental ill-health, which have seen him bed-bound, unable to communicate with his children, crying at work and thinking about bringing it all to an end, while juggling a profile as one of the country’s favourite TV personas.

Kohli has never spoken publicly about living with periods of destructive depression stretching back to his childhood. The reason he’s doing it now is because he’s found succour from others’ accounts, and hopes his can do the same.

It wasn’t until an encounter with a schoolfriend, a fellow pupil at St Aloysius College in Glasgow, that he began to consider the value of “going public” about his mental ill-health.

Efforts to stage a school reunion had reconnected Kohli with Mark Pacitti, an IT worker, now living in Australia. “He was one of the guys you’d happily be in touch with, and that’s not always the case with people from school,” says the actor, drinking coffee perched in the window seat of a west end cafe close to his Glasgow home.

“Mark had been telling me what he was up to, and mentioned he’d started a charity called Dancing With The Black Dog. It started as a blog, about being a young father dealing with depression, and how he managed.

“I’d had my own episodes by then. But I’d never really talked about it. He’d asked me if I would help hand out badges or whatever for his charity and I was happy to.

“Then I started to think about other people like Stephen Fry and Robin Williams going public. It’s a help to people. It’s important for people to know that on the surface, things might look great, but it’s possible to be depressed even then.”

Kohli, 46, grew up in Glasgow in the 1980s and 90s, the son of a social worker mother and teacher father. His parents also ran convenience stores, where Kohli worked as young man.

There was no intention of a career in shopkeeping, less still acting. He enrolled to study medicine, then maths and was destined for accountancy when he landed a presenting gig on a Radio Scotland show called Shredded Wheat, after a friend prompted him to audition.

A nascent relationship with comedy writer/performer Donnie McLeary was formed, and careers were born. Since then he has maintained an apparently buoyant career, from appearances in network series such as Cold Feet and Fresh Meat, to the ongoing critical success of BBC Radio 4 comedy Fags, Mags and Bags – now in its eighth series – which he writes and voices with McLeary.

There’s also a small part in the forthcoming Stan & Ollie cinema biopic, in which Steve Coogan and John C Reilly play the titular Laurel and Hardy.

Yet all of this is ice in the fire of an illness which powers a voracious inner-monologue of self doubt.

Kohli said: “I heard someone say once that asking someone, ‘What have you got to be depressed about?’ is like asking a diabetic, ‘what have you got to be diabetic about?’.

“Well, you’re either diabetic or you’re not. It’s how you’re wired. I know people who’ve had all sorts of sh*t happen to them, yet they come out smiling. I just know that I’m the sort of person who always puts a negative spin on things. And that’s the way I’m wired. I can be fine every day, then spill over into a depression.

“I end up feeling like I’m a burden, that I have nothing to say for myself. I question how I got into this position, that it was all just luck.

“I don’t attach any worth to what I do. I convince myself that I only got here because someone said I’d be good at something.

“There have been days when I would do the school run and if I wasn’t working, I’d go back to bed. Before you know it’s lunch time. Sometimes I was only getting up again because I had to go and pick the kids up. You can’t get out of bed, and if you do, you can’t get out of the shower. Then you spend an hour putting on your socks staring at the floor.”

For Kohli, at their worst, these days have spiralled into dark thoughts of personal cataclysm.

He says: “I have three children and a wife. But put it this way, without saying I’m suicidal, I would play a game in my head where if there was a button I could press that would make an asteroid hit the earth and take everything out, me and everyone else, then there are days I would press that button. If I could do it that way, so nobody would suffer from me going. That’s how it has been.”

It was after one such dark descent that Kohli finally spoke to his wife, Fiona, about seeking professional support.

“She could see it,” he says, casting his mind back over a decade, to a time when he put his low mood down to inconsistent workloads. “And she was very much of the opinion that I should be speaking to someone about it. But at first I didn’t tell her.”

His GP prescribed anti-depressants and, by the time he’d worked his way to the front of the queue for referral to an NHS counsellor, he’d emerged from the cloud.

Earlier this year he encountered his longest bout of depression, lasting several months. And this time the drugs didn’t work.

“The pills weren’t doing it for me,” he says. “It was the longest bout I’d ever had, by about two months, and I thought, ‘this is it.’

“Each time it happens, there’s a different trigger. If the trigger is big enough, it spins you into a dark place. It’s like walking a tightrope. If you lose that bar you’re off.”

When we meet, Kohli has not yet spoken to his parents about his condition, perhaps in itself an indication of the miles left to travel in changing attitudes.

“People have enough on their plates,” he says. “I’ll tell my parents and my children before I go public. That’s hard, because part of being a dad is that you don’t want to burden them with stuff. It feels better to tell them now they can see that I got through it.

“But there have been times when I’ve got home at night, been with my kids, and barely be functioning with them, barely there for them. Even my boy said to me, ‘why do you look so depressed?’

“I didn’t think he even knew the word. I couldn’t even begin to say. It was another wordless car journey. I couldn’t even talk to my children, and that’s troubling when that happens. Because, my God, you should be there for your kids.”

Kohli identifies triggers behind his relapses which are common to many: concerns over work and money.

In the seven years between Still Game’s disappearance and reappearance in 2014, he, and the rest of the show’s cast, Ford Kiernan, Greg Hemphill, Paul Riley, Gavin Mitchell, Jane McCarry and Mark Cox, returned to the rounds of the jobbing actor.

“I remember when work had dried up completely, and I had no plan B,” he says. “Another time, after I thought I’d been doing well, a VAT bill came along. I’d put money aside for it, like a proper functioning adult, but in the end I thought I was going to have to sell the house. It was horrible.

“What should have happened, if I’d been in a better state mentally, is that I’d be down for about a week, then start to see there was a way through it.

“But I’d feel worthless. I’d be in the supermarket and couldn’t even trust my own judgement about what I was bringing home. It gets into every nook and cranny of existence.”

Still, Kohli managed to work. Since 2014, Still Game has been a regular feature on TV screens and in the SSE Hydro arena, where two live versions of the show have proved extremely popular, playing to over half a million people. Kiernan and Hemphill’s series has become a modern cultural phenomenon in Scotland, with one final series set to be screened on BBC1 in the coming months.

In 2015, Kohli joined the cast of BBC Scotland soap River City, as family man Amandeep Jandhu, opposite Dawn Steele, and remains one of the key characters down on Montego Street.

While portraying the highs and lows of fictional lives, he has struggled with his own, seeking support from co-stars on both River City and Still Game, which he films back-to-back at BBC Scotland’s Dumbarton studios.

“Sometimes at work I can’t even conduct a conversation,” he says. “I’ll hear other people talking about the minutiae of their day and I just don’t have it in me.

“You have to be in a good frame of mind to do what I do, and if someone says to you, are you alright?’ you think, ‘God, what do I say here? Who do I tell?’ You worry that people will be different around you.

“I suppose it’s a bit like when a woman is pregnant, and she can’t mention it until the 12-week scan,” he says. “She’s at the Christmas do and she thinks everyone knows because she’s drinking water, so she has people with her to bat off suspicions.

“I’ve told a couple of people I do scenes with, and got teary when I was saying it. But the person I spoke to had been through it herself, and I know she would be understanding. They’ll see it and can cover for me, they can be my hauners.”

Does he worry that speaking out might impact his work, in such a notoriously fickle profession?

“If you’re seen as a liability, that’s a worry,” he says. “You’re only as good as your last job, and sometimes in this industry, there’s no safety net, it’s just you and your work.

“If that’s compromised, then it’s a worry, but the more people who talk about it, then the more people we’ll force to take it into consideration. There are too many people who need support, not rejection.”

Having confided in a handful of friends and colleagues, he followed a recommendation and sought help independently of the NHS.

“I went to see someone privately, a therapist. It made a massive difference,” he says. “Within weeks I started to feel better.”

Private care is, of course, a resort for the few, not the many. Recent figures showed a waiting list of up to 18 weeks for psychological therapy on the NHS in Scotland.

Online hashtag-driven global visibility campaigns to encourage more openness in talking about mental health have achieved prominence. Yet they have been criticised by some who feel they shift the onus for care onto the individual, at a time when inquiries into standards of mental health care at NHS health boards such as Tayside are making national news headlines.

Few, though, would argue that public attitudes towards mental illness have shifted in the last decade.

And Kohli hopes his candour as an advocate for Dancing with The Black Dog plays a part in continuing that evolution.

“If we can make it more publicly known, symptoms, how it affects people, then people will know how to react better,” he says.

“ I think I know now that when the triggers happen, I need to be more watchful.

“Talking is the first step, but it isn’t everything. I think people understand more than they did. It’s always going to be the case that I can’t show you my broken legs or my smashed glasses, because I’m broken in here. I think as a society we are slowly turning that tanker around.”

Visit: for more information.

The charity

MARK Pacitti left Glasgow for a life of sunshine in Australia. But the brightest of days can’t help the darkest of depression, so-called, most famously, by Winston Churchill.

Mark says: “Eight years ago I was at my very worst and could not take any more anxiety and depression so I tackled it head on – medication and counselling. It changed my life, but it was very tough initially.

“I’ve always been a hobbyist writer, and I decided that if I was able to win the battle with the black dog, I was going to share my experiences in a light hearted but very open and honest blog.”

As the blog’s popularity grew, Mark registered Dancing With The Black Dog as a charity in Australia, supporting mental health services. His aim is to increase visibility around the world, and he is working to establish a UK wing of the charity.

He says: “Our logo enables people to visually show anyone suffering from anxiety or depression that ‘it’s ok to say if you don’t feel ok’, by wearing one of our charity dancing black dog lapel pins, patches or badges, or displaying one of our stickers.

“My vision is for everyone to know what the logo means, for 1 in 10 people to be wearing or displaying it, and more importantly, for it to be encouraging people to seek help for mental illness, and knowing that others around them care.”

Visit: for more information.