For Kris Boyd, the issue of mental health is at the forefront of his thoughts on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
After his younger brother, Scott, tragically took his own life in September 2016, how could it be any other way for the former Scotland striker?
That’s why Boyd will not only be an enthusiastic supporter of Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place across the UK from next Monday, but will redouble the admirable efforts of his own charity in addressing an issue so close to his heart.
In conjunction with his former international team-mate Robert Snodgrass, he has been able to further raise the profile of the Kris Boyd Charity in recent weeks by partnering it with their highly successful podcast, The Lockdown Tactics.
In the latest episode, Boyd speaks openly about the day his own life changed forever with the suicide of Scott at the age of 27 and the journey he has been on since to try and promote a better understanding of mental health.
“I got a phone call from Lee Clark, my Kilmarnock manager at that time,” recalls Boyd. “My family had been trying to get a hold of me and couldn’t get me.
“Lee told me that I needed to phone home and it just gives you that feeling in your stomach. It’s just a sixth sense that tells you something has happened here. The world just ends.
“After a passage of time, I spoke to my mum and said I felt there was an opportunity to start a charity and help people. I looked at what had gone on in our family and wanted to stop other families from going through it.
“She initially said ‘no,no,no’ and maybe didn’t want wounds opening up. Then a week passed and she phoned me up to ask if I had started that charity yet. She wanted me to do it.
“I thought to myself there is something that needs to be done here and we wanted to make a difference.
“The biggest thing for me is that I’m still learning about it all. It is vitally important to educate people on mental health, in terms of when people open up to you, do not reject them.
“Listen to what they’ve got to say. If they open up and tell you they are struggling, be there for them. It will have taken a lot for that person to open up, so be there for them in the best way you can.
“When it happened to my family, then I knew I had to open up my eyes and ears and educate myself to help people and families.
“Mental health awareness means so much to me. I want to be able to help people. It is Mental Health Awareness Week coming up but the most important thing is that we treat every week as being a mental health awareness week. It is that important.”
Asked by Snodgrass if he feels his brother would be proud of the work he and his family have undertaken through the charity, Boyd replies: “Yeah, it comes into my head. But I’d do anything in the world to have him back.
“The most important thing is that we keep going because we’re helping people. I’m not saying we have a cure but I know we are helping people.
“I want to keep going. I want to get to a stage that gives us something, working with the kids and helping the kids is great. We want to help people in Ayrshire, in Scotland and all over the UK.
“There is loads that can still be done. We need to keep pushing on. There is a lot of focus on coronavirus just now but as we come out of this, there needs to be a lot of focus on the mental health aspect.
“Even for you getting involved, Snoddy, you’ve had several people contacting you and asking to do different things and who chose to be a part of this podcast.
“It was brilliant for me to hear that because we can go and make a difference. Because of who you are, we can get to the right people and get the right messages out there.
“When we come out of lockdown a lot of people will be looking for help and it’s important that help is there.
“That’s why our podcast is doing very well and we’ve had such positive feedback. When people see John Terry, Jack Wilshere, Darren Fletcher, Leon McKenzie and Gregor Townsend coming on and speaking so openly, then that will be inspirational to others. I urge anybody out there not to suffer alone. Please open up.”
There is a growing appreciation that mental health problems are significantly widespread among professional footballers and Snodgrass asks Boyd if he feels their lifestyle may be a contributory factor.
“I missed the majority of my kids’ life growing up,” replies Boyd. “I was playing in Turkey and America and the family wasn’t with me. My wife, Christine, was basically a single parent for a number of years.
“That’s when it hits home. I wasn’t there as a father for my kids when they were younger. That’s the sacrifices you make to have a career.
“It’s not until you finish and you look back and say ‘Have I got the best relationship with my kids?’ ‘Did I do enough for my kids when they were growing up?’
“Hopefully my kids, further down the line, will realise what I tried to do for them and what I’ve done for them. Everybody thinks that the life of a footballer is all roses, but it’s not.
“I’ll never forget going back a few years and I had an idea to start a charity. It was based around youngsters in football at professional clubs, maybe around 15, 16 and 17, and do we do enough to look after them? I was coming to the end of my career and thought that maybe there was something there to help young players who may well have been led up the garden path about their dream of playing football.
“They then get released at 17 years old and there is nobody there to look after them. That needs to be addressed in football.”
The Lockdown Tactics is a brand new podcast, hosted by former Scotland stars Robert Snodgrass and Kris Boyd.
Every week TLT will talk to big names with its core focus being on Mental Health and Wellbeing. It’s chosen charity partner is The Kris Boyd Charity.
To watch the full interview with Kris, go to YouTube and the various Lockdown Tactics social media platforms. Scotland rugby Head Coach Gregor Townsend is also a guest. It will be available from 12.00 today.
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