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My tragic son hid his agony away until he could see no other way out. If only he had got over the stigma.. if only he had talked; SUICIDE FOOTBALLER'S FAMILY ON THEIR ORDEAL; Grieving dad speaks out over mental health struggle.

Byline: | Lauren Crooks

The dad of a tragic footballer who took his own life has said the stigma around mental health problems stops people seeking help.

Former Falkirk star Chris Mitchell was just 27 when he stepped in front of a train last year.

Despite having a close relationship with his family, the ex-Clyde player hid the true extent of his suffering from them.

Now dad Philip, 57, has said talking about the way we are feeling and raising awareness is key to reducing the number of people who feel suicide is their only option.

He spoke out to mark World Suicide Prevention Day today in the hope that Chris's story will encourage others to ask for help. It comes as new figures show Scotland's suicide rate has increased for the first time in six years.

Philip, who along with wife Brenda and daughter Laura have set up a foundation in Chris's memory, said: "People who are affected by mental health problems don't want to speak about it because there's still such a stigma around it. Some think, 'Give yourself a shake and you'll be alright.' "When it's a physical injury, you get treated and get better. But with mental health, people still seem to be ashamed of it." It has been 16 months since Chris passed away but the pain of the loss is still raw for Philip and his family.

Chris, a Scottish U-21 international footballer who played for a string of clubs including Bradford City and Queen of the South, only began to show symptoms of his distress in the days leading up to his death.

Philip, a retired police officer, said: "His symptoms were not obvious, not until the last five days or so.

"However, it would appear this had been building up over a period of time.

"Chris had left football in January to take up full-time employment outwith the sport. But over those months, we didn't see it, there were no signs of it.

"Then we noticed he was becoming more introvert. He wouldn't discuss things that we thought would be beneficial to him going forward.

"He just wanted to be on his own for periods of time as well. We put down policies - for example, we'd say, 'If you go back to your flat, you have to answer your phone. And we have to come and see you.' "It was about getting that balance - giving him a degree of independence or keeping him on a chain.

"He never told us what might have triggered these problems. But without a doubt, he missed his football terribly."

On May 7 last year, Chris disappeared and Philip and Brenda reported him missing, telling police he was vulnerable.

Less than an hour later, they received a call they had been dreading. He had taken his own life, having been struck by a train at a level crossing near Cornton, Stirling.

Philip said: "We didn't think things had gotten so bad. He hid it very well. He didn't want to confide in his family about the mental issues that he was suffering."

Since his death, the family have set up the Chris Mitchell Foundation to highlight the need for mental health and wellbeing awareness in Scottish professional football.

Last year in Scotland, 728 people took their own life - 56 more deaths than in 2015. Now the Mental Health Foundation have launched a 12-point action plan which looks at what can be done in schools, workplaces, prisons and health services to stop it increasing further.

Toni Giugliano, public affairs boss at the charity, said: "It's time for a national conversation about the devastating impact of suicide and what more can be done to prevent it."

with We just didn't think things had gotten so bad. He hid it very well

CAPTION(S):

MISSED Chris in action for Queen of the South and, far left, with dad Philip and mum Brenda

st ar. Chris, right, in his Queen of the South strip, also played for Falkirk, Clyde and Bradford
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 10, 2017
Words:669
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