Glasgow Rocks basketball captain Kieron Achara has teamed up with NSPCC Scotland to raise awareness of Children’s Mental Health Week.
Former Great Britain captain Kieron, 35, from Stirling, revealed he suffered from anxiety growing up as a child, adding that he was often made to feel different from other children because of his height and his skin colour.
Kieron has joined forces with NSPCC Scotland to help ensure that children do not have to suffer in silence and has encouraged young people to contact Childline if they need support.
In 2017-18, Childline carried out 3,428 counselling sessions with children and young people from Scotland over their mental and emotional health – by far the most common reason for young people to contact the free and confidential service.
Children’s Mental Health Week aims to highlight the importance of mental wellbeing for young children.
Kieron said: “It’s very easy to look at me now and see this strong, tall character playing basketball. But being tall, being black, being different when you are young is not an easy thing to go through. When I was a child growing up I never wanted to be different from everyone else.
“There were numerous occasions I would come home crying to my mum, telling her I had heard this word or someone saying this about me or thinking people don’t like me because I am black, or people being scared of me because I’m tall.
“I didn’t want to be different. When you are young you want to be the same as everyone else, it’s only when you are older that you embrace your uniqueness.
“Even now when I go into schools a lot of the children have their own uniqueness, they may have a different voice, different skin complexion, different height or have birthmarks, it’s about learning to embrace it and that can be very difficult mentally.”
Kieron added: “I learned at a very young age that I could speak up and talk to people, I was very fortunate to have that.
“I know a lot of young people don’t have the same opportunities, that’s why it’s great to see services like Childline who are there for young people to talk about their problems and get support. Sometimes simply being able to speak to someone is what you really need.
“My advice to any child struggling with their mental health might sound a wee bit cliched but I would tell them that it’s OK not to be OK.”
As well as calling Childline’s free confidential helpline on 0800 11 11, young people can also send emails to trained counsellors or receive support online via one-to-one chat by visiting childline.org.uk or by downloading our For Me app