This past week saw Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd launch The Kris Boyd Charity, which is a mental health charity created not only in memory of his own brother Scott, who tragically took his own life back in 2016, but for people in general who are having problems with depression. The overwhelming support from fans of all colours truly told a story of how important an issue mental health has become, not only in football, but in society in general.

For someone as high profile as Kris to speak so publicly to encourage people going through mental health problems to open up and talk to someone has been a major boost in the battle against the stigma associated with this horrible disease.

It also brought back memories for me of just over 20 months ago, when a former team mate and friend of mine, Chris Mitchell, also tragically took his own life due to mental health issues at just 27 years old. The news rocked Scottish football and everyone who knew Chris for being such a bubbly and confident lad.

Having met his sister and parents last year at the launch of the foundation in his own name, I saw the desolation and despair in their eyes at losing someone they loved so dearly in such a cruel way. They felt that Chris was scared to open up and speak about the issues he was experiencing to them, or anyone else, in fear of being mocked or being told to pull himself together and get on with it. It is precisely that stigma still attached to mental health issues that we need to eradicate completely from society.

I experienced what I now know was a severe bout of depression back in 2007 when I was a player at Dunfermline. We had just been relegated to the Championship, and the pressure personally and collectively on all of us to come straight back up was immense. We were hot favourites with the bookies and due to the way I had finished the previous season, I was expected to be a massive part in getting us back up.

I didn’t score a single goal in the first eight games and we were languishing near the bottom of the league. I was still trying my hardest but was just completely devoid of any form or confidence. The punters were rightfully giving us dogs abuse for our performances and everything was a total mess. I felt like I was badly letting down the club, the fans and my own teammates, and despite still being a ‘Jack the Lad’ around the club, I felt a terrible sense of dread deep down in my gut.

It was around this time that I started missing training sessions and phoning in sick when I had no physical symptoms. I was lying to the manager and the medical team about what was wrong with me, because I felt I couldn’t open up or they wouldn’t understand because of the kind of personality I was.

Now, I don’t for one minute blame anyone at Dunfermline as they aren’t mind readers, but that was just what I felt.

It was completely out of character for me, as one thing I loved throughout my career before and after my period at the Pars, was the banter in the dressing room and getting out on the grass to train. I loved playing football. But I just couldn’t get out my bed, and the thought of facing anyone at training terrified me. A feeling of dread that I couldn’t explain about coming into contact with people in general had engulfed me. I literally couldn’t leave the house.I am not ashamed to admit now that I was having some dark thoughts about my own life around that period, but with the help of my then girlfriend, who is now my wife, I came through it.

On the outside I had a lot going for me, and I felt people would laugh and say to me ‘there are people far worse off than you who have got nothing getting on with life, so get your finger out’. I was earning good money at Dunfermline, had a nice flat, car and a girlfriend I loved, so I felt a bit embarrassed to say that I was struggling. But depression can affect everyone, no matter who much money or success you have. I have had periods in my life were I couldn’t get a club and was struggling to even buy a bag of shopping I was that skint. But I didn’t feel anywhere near as bad as I did back then. So, it can strike at any time.

With both the Kris Boyd Charity and Chris Mitchell Foundation, I hope that people within football will be encouraged to come forward if they are experiencing difficulties with depression. Whether you are a millionaire or have nothing, no one will laugh at you or judge you. After all, it is ok not to be ok sometimes. And that precise message can start to save lives.