SADLY nobody at Roots Hall last night would have needed reminding just how serious mental health issues can be.

For, in the past two years, both Southend United and Yeovil Town have tragically lost popular past captains to suicide.

At the start of 2020, ex Blues skipper Chris Barker opted to end his own life.

And it came as a huge shock to his close friend Rhys Evans who he met during their time together at Southend.

“We had dinner two nights before it happened with another friend of ours,” recalled Evans.

“Chris was down about a couple of things but not to the extent where you thought anything more than that.

“If you were to line up everyone you knew, he would’ve been right at the far end of being someone you would expect to do what he did.

“It was honestly one of the biggest shocks I’ve ever had in my life.”

Barker was named Blues’ player of the year during the 2010/11 season, his first with the club and went on to skipper the club in their first ever Wembley cup final two years later.

And it was Barker’s strong personality which made things even tougher for Evans to come to terms with.

“He was big and brash and it made it even more of a shock,” said Evans, who lived with Barker while with Blues.

“He wasn’t a sensitive soul.

“You would tell him how it was and he would do the same to you.

“But you don’t know how long he had been considering what he did and you question your own value as a friend.

“You wonder if you could’ve done more, helped more or seen something.

“But I don’t think I could have done anything different because I don’t think he would’ve allowed you in.

“All you can say is the aftermath of it has been huge.

“The funeral was horrendous and, I’ll be honest, I was angry with him for quite a while.

“I’ve read that’s quite a normal reaction.

“You go from sadness, to feeling grateful he was your friend at all and then feeling angry again.”

However, Evans will never forget his close friend and admits Barker’ death has led to him taking a closer look at himself.

“I’m a changed person because of what’s happened,” said Evans.

“I’m more aware of how I speak to people now and how I treat people too.

“I try to be more empathetic towards how somebody might be feeling.

“But it’s such a tricky subject and it can be very easy to preach about what we should do.

“Every day life can be tough and I think we’ve all probably said and done things we regret and don’t mean at some point because you’re not thinking about how it might affect the person at the other end of it.

“All we can do is try to say the right thing and give the right messages too.”

Tuesday's game, which Blues won 2-1, was designated as a ‘Match for Mind’ to raise funds and awareness of the work SECE Mind do in the local area.

To donate click here.