WEST Ham United have shared a powerful message on mental health from the friends and family of a dad who was found dead last year, days after he went missing. 

The club has put together a video with Kerry Ashpole, the partner of 37-year-old Basildon man Gary Billings, who died in January after he went missing from the Whitmore Way area.

The video was released today to mark World Mental Health Day, with the Hammers declaring their support for the campaign to tackle the “stigma about men and mental health”.

READ MORE >> Pair arrested as two French bulldogs are stolen in Canvey burglary

Gary, a devoted dad to daughter Isla, was a huge West Ham fan, and the club continues to place a flag on the seat he used to sit in at the London Stadium before each match in his memory.

In the video, Ms Ashpole told West Ham TV that she never knew Gary was suffering with mental health, as he was the “life and soul of the party”.

She said: “He was the most lovable man you could ever meet.

“I think there is a bit of stigma around men and mental health. It is a pride thing, and maybe men might see it as a sign of weakness, as I never ever knew Gary suffered with mental health, none of us did.

“When he went missing it was the biggest shock for us, and I just wish he had told me and spoke to me sooner because we could have got him help.

“If I was to tell anyone who was in the same situation as Gary, speak out. Speak out. Everyone will listen.”

She added: “It is nothing to be ashamed of, pride doesn’t come into it. Don’t be in the situation that we are all in where we are missing him and not being able to see him anymore.

“I wish Gary could have seen how loved he was.”

Gary’s close friends, Dan Belf, Lee Blackholly, Leon Hyde, and Darren Sham also told West Ham TV they hoped sharing Gary’s story will help save at least one person’s life.

Lee Blackholly said: “Make a phone call, or text. Even if they are your friend; you haven’t got to speak to them every day, every week, every month, just a text. How are you doing mate?

“Hopefully something like this can save one person’s life.”

Leon Hyde added: “Please just talk, don’t let someone else who is so loved, hurt so much.

“The help is out there, just talk.”