Kind words and gestures are so important to those struggling with their mental health

This week I posted a message regarding Caroline Flack on my LinkedIn account, and the response to that post has been absolutely phenomenal.

That has been the motivation for me to write my column this week around the subject of mental health.

On LinkedIn, I wrote: "I'm sure that for many, who read my posts, like me, you have experienced how cruel, tragic and heartless life can be. I lost the love of my life, and walked in the shadow and darkness for so many years. But with the love, care, compassion and support of many, I came through.

"Unfortunately, some don't make it, to again walk in the sunshine of life, RIP Caroline Flack and to the many others who have taken their lives on a weekly basis. I was blessed with those who carried me, please take a moment, to look around, and see if anyone in your life needs a shoulder, a helping hand, as I did in May of 2014 when I lost my wife and the will to live.

"Love and support is out there, we just need to take time to offer it, I came through, now living a good and rewarding life and trying to affect others. There are other "2014 Nino's" out there, hurting and suffering, just a few kind, compassionate words or actions can change the outcome. A peaceful and loving weekend to you all."

I can 100% identify with what it feels like to feel as if there is no point in living. I wish I did not know how this felt, but it puts me in a position to understand why anyone can be in this place - and I mean anyone.

The year Elena and I retired, September 2013 after the US Open, we had a great life to live, a fantastic portfolio of businesses, commentary, a place at the top table of British tennis, and an identity, "Bally and Nino".

I can tell you, we felt invincible, I personally felt the strongest, mentally and physically at that point than at any other point in my life. But life can kick you around like a rag doll, and that's exactly what it did to me and Elena, and by the end of our fight, which ended in Los Angeles, we were both unrecognisable, physically and mentally.

After I lost Elena, I was a broken man. Four months earlier I had everything a man could want, a beautiful talented wife, a great life, a great future, massive prospects, and in one blink of life's eye, it was brutally taken away from me.

At this point, I was in the depth of despair, someone who could not see a way forward. Every day was just about getting out of bed, finding a reason to fill each day, and our dog Oscar was such a big part of my fighting process, he was with me every day, out on the streets, by my side, while I took him for walks that would literally lasts hours.

Anyone who has been through this type of trauma will know how much support the dog in your life can be. Day by day, I tried my hardest to use the mental skills I taught to others in sport, I had to practice what I had been preaching for 25 years.

It took six months of hard work, but I survived, and arrived at a place where I could start to function.

Part of this process were the people who loved and cared for me, my family, and close individuals who surrounded me in Ipswich - my finance director, Vicky Solomon, our agent at the time Eleanor Preston, and my cleaner, a very special person called Debbie.

But there were others. Judy Murray, who stayed in contact with me for months on a daily basis, Nigel Sears, Andy Murray's father-in-law, who has been a rock to this day, the famous tennis coach, Louis Cayer, a member of the Great Britain Davis Cup-winning team, and Ann Austin from our World Governing Body, the WTA, who gave me the love and care from the tennis world, and who are still supporting me and Elena's foundation to this day.

I was so sad to hear that Caroline Flack had taken her own life. Such a beautiful, talented woman, with her whole life ahead of her. I so wish she could have found a way out of the darkness, but for her, it was not meant to be. Just because you are famous, successful or rich does not mean life cannot hurt you, because it can.

My very good friend Martyn Waghorn, who now plays for Derby County only recently went public about his depression, while Tyson Fury has bravely talked about the mental torture that he endured, even when he was at the top of his sporting world. This dark and terrible state of mind can hit at any time, for any reason and to anybody.

I want my column to play a part in two areas. One, if you feel yourself falling into depression, or a state of mind that is dark, reach out for help, immediately.

And two, simply take time to be aware of others around you, look out for those who are going through a vulnerable phase, offer a caring word, a compassionate gesture. If we all did this as a society, those we have lost may just have had enough reason to grab hold of life and still be with us today!

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