A new film released by the charity set up in memory of tragic Stirling footballer Chris Mitchell will highlight the impact of his death – and his remarkable legacy.
Tuesday saw the launch of the project by the Chris Mitchell Foundation and SPFL Trust and coincided with the news that all 42 SPFL clubs enrolled staff in Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFAT), delivered by the trust and the foundation.
Midfielder Chris, from Bridge of Allan, took his own life in May 2016, at the age of just 27, after suffering mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety, following the end of his career after injury.
During his career Chris starred for Falkirk, Ayr United, Bradford City, Queen of the South and Clyde as well as the Scotland under-21 team.
In the aftermath of his passing, Chris’ shattered family set up the Chris Mitchell Foundation in his memory, with the aim of promoting mental health issues among footballers.
On average five members of staff from each SPFL club, such as community and academy coaches, pastoral staff, and even football managers, have completed the course. In total, over 600 people have taken part in MHFAT with delegates attending from across football in Scotland at all levels from the men’s and women’s game.
The course provides vital training to people working within Scottish football and the communities in which clubs are based. The aim of the training is to: Equip staff with the skills to provide initial support; prevent the problem from getting worse; and to provide tools for giving comfort.
Participants of the training will talk about suicide, recognise the signs of mental health problems and provide initial help and how to guide a person to appropriate help.
The Chris Mitchell Foundation was set-up by Chris’ dad Philip and sister Laura following his death. The foundation aims to dispel the stigma associated with mental health in Scottish football through education and by raising awareness.
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The film, ‘Mitch: What happened next?’, is a sequel to ‘Mitch’ from February 2018 which featured six of Chris’ friends discussing his tragic passing and sharing their memories of him.
This new film picks up the story and explains the impact Chris’ legacy has had on Scottish football through Mental Health First Aid Training. It features Chris’ dad Philip, his friend, Rangers star Scott Arfield, and three different training participants.
Philip said: “We miss Christopher every day and set up the foundation in his memory. We want to prevent other families from having to go through the pain that we’ve been through in recent years. No one should have to experience the loss of a loved one to suicide.
“The Mental Health First Aid Training programme has been an enormous success, with over 600 people trained. This is at all levels in the SPFL, Women’s football, and the grassroots game.
“I want to thank the people that have taken part. You’re helping Scottish football to have a conversation that is desperately needed. It is people like you who give us hope. Things are changing in the conversation around mental health, and there is no going back.”
Rangers star Scott Arfield, Chris’ friend and former teammate said: “I see it in the Changing Rooms now, people talk, people are far more open, there’s no doubt what happened to Chris has changed things massively.
“Chris was my best friend, he is sorely missed by all of us, every day. But, he will always be remembered. He was so popular and a pleasure to be around. It’s not easy to think about the circumstances around his tragic passing but I am hopeful that our charity work underlines the importance of mental health awareness and training to break the stigma.
“No matter who you are, or the circumstances you face, please don’t give up and speak to people around you for support.”
Bernadette Malone, chair, SPFL Trust, added: “The SPFL Trust is committed to using the power of football to enable a change in conversation, because we know talking can save lives.
“Our partnership with the Chris Mitchell Foundation was born out of tragedy, and we know that his family mourn his passing every day. But from that darkness there has been some light. Scottish football is now talking about mental health.
“There is still so much to do, as recent trends show us. No death by suicide should ever be inevitable, and so we will continue to support and build programmes that use football for good.”