Chris Kirkland hopes to help people suffering with mental health issues open up with the launch of YAPA, a brand new app which is available to download now.

Kirkland’s experiences of talking about his issues with mental health are a clear example of just how important taking that first step towards help is.

“It felt like a massive weight off my shoulders, I could see clearly for the first time. It’s not an over-exaggeration to say it was life-changing for me and helped me get to where I am today,” says the former Liverpool goalkeeper.

Now, over a year on from bravely revealing the struggles he faced with anxiety and depression, Kirkland has helped launch an app which aims to help others do the same.

YAPA (‘You Are Perfect Always’) is a brand new social media app that puts users’ mental health at its forefront. By sending out ‘Yaps’, users can communicate their emotions and feelings to each other and start the process of opening up about their issues, while also helping others who may be going through a difficult time.

YAPA is available to download for free now on iOS and Android devices

Approximately one in four people in the UK will suffer with a mental health issue each year and in the fight to lower this statistic, the app will also provide details to users for professional help in their local area if necessary.

“Mental health should be treated in the same way as physical health,” says Kirkland.

“But whether we get to that stage I’m not so sure. The issues are a lot more publicised now than they were in the past, which is good in raising awareness, but there’s still a stigma around mental health that won’t go away.

“People will still find opening up and seeking help hard to do, so if we can help people do that through the YAPA app then all the hard work that has gone into releasing it will be worthwhile.

“It’s about 18 months since I told people about my struggles with mental health, and the number of people suffering with mental health issues is rising. Right now I’m in a good place; I still have bad days but I’m better equipped to deal with those days, thanks to opening up and getting help, and that’s what we want people to do.”

Kirkland isn’t alone in the venture.

The idea behind YAPA came from entrepreneur Jack Knowles, who has a technology background in developing and releasing apps.

“I’ve had many friends struggle with mental health issues and I myself have had problems with stress and anxiety in the past,” says Knowles.

“A lot of social media apps focus on ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ but YAPA doesn’t. There are no functions like that in the app and you can’t post photos either. It’s more focused on telling people how you’re feeling and trying to help others who perhaps aren’t in a good place.

“Our focus is on moving away from that aspect of social media and more towards talking to people. I want everyone who has a mobile device to have YAPA downloaded, because we hope it can be the future of social media.”

A year in the making, YAPA is available to download now via iOS and on Android devices, and Kirkland’s hope is that it’ll ‘go from strength to strength’.

He continues: “A lot of hard work has gone into the app, particularly from Jack. We wouldn’t be releasing something like this if we didn’t feel it could help people. There aren’t too many apps like this so hopefully it’ll go from strength to strength. Apple have also allowed us to lower the age limit on the app so younger people can use it too.

“As we know, opening up and talking to people when you’re in a bad place is the hardest step to take and hopefully this app can try to make that easier for people.

“There is help out there, it’s all about not being scared to ask for it. It’s not easy, I found it really hard to take that first step, but once you do things really start to get easier.

“How big is it going to be? Well, we think it’ll be massive, but regardless of that if it can just help one person it will have worked.”

YAPA is available to download now for free on iOS and Android devices