The heartbroken family of popular 21-year-old Kyle Dilks have spoken of their devastating loss in the hope of encouraging others to talk more openly about mental health.

The Cramlington community was left in shock after the "larger than life" character with an "infectious smile" took his own life in October.

Kyle worked at MGN Fire Protection and was a much-loved figure at Cramlington United Football Club, a team he once represented as a player.

He later became an avid fan and was renowned at the club for his likeable personality and sense of humour.

If U Care Share Foundation has provided vital support to Kyle's family since his death, and a board has now been installed pitch-side at Cramlington United urging people to speak out about their mental health struggles.

Kyle's dad, Neil Dilks, said the loss of his son has left a "huge void" in the family.

He added: "It’s difficult to put into words how we've been affected by Kyle’s loss. He was the life and soul of the party, the centre of everything. If he wasn't the centre of things, he’d find a way to make himself so.

Kyle with his dad Neil and mum Kelly

"It’s really important to have support there for anyone who finds themselves in this situation and If U Care Share have helped us as a family.

"I know a lot of the people at the charity have had experience of suicide in their lives. They're in the same boat, which helps in terms of them understanding.

"Our message to anyone feeling hopeless or desperate is to talk about it. Speak to someone before taking a step which changes so many lives. It’s so important to talk."

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK and, in 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were male.

If U Care Share provides emotional and practical support to those who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, as well as support to people impacted by suspected suicide.

The charity, which launched in 2005, also works alongside schools, businesses and sports clubs to provide support and advice on mental health and well-being.

Shirley Smith, one of the founders of If U Care Share, said: "As a charity we work hard to raise awareness of the support that we offer, ensuring that as many people as possible know that we are here to help, here to chat and that no one is ever alone.

L-R: Andrew Skelton (Director of SOS Group), Shirley Smith (a founder of If U Care Share), Neil, Corey and Kelly Dilks (Kyle’s dad, brother and mam) and Dave Malone (Chair, Cramlington United FC)

"We are incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity to raise even more awareness of the help and support that is out there. Just one conversation can save a life."

The advertising board at the Northburn Sports and Community Centre ground was the brainchild of Andrew Skelton, a family friend and former Cramlington United coach.

Andrew, a director at office technology firm SOS Group, said: "Kyle was a regular at the club and was such an upbeat lad and always full of fun. His death has knocked everyone for six.

"Earlier in the year our company, SOS Group, offered to pay for an advertising board at the ground and after hearing about the support If U Care Share gave Kyle’s family, we decided to sponsor a board for the charity, too.

"This club is somewhere people come together as a community. Hopefully, seeing the If U Care Share messages along the pitch-side might help someone who finds themselves in a difficult place and encourage them to talk about it."

For confidential support from volunteers, including for suicidal thoughts, Samaritans can be contacted free, on 116 123 or by email to [email protected]

In the North East, If U Care Share Foundation supports those bereaved by suicide and works towards suicide prevention.

Anyone experiencing mental health problems should also contact their GP for help.