SPFL clubs back mental health initiative as part of Chris Mitchell legacy

The SPFL is backing a mental health initiative as part of a charity set up following the tragic death of former player Chris Mitchell.

All 42 clubs have enrolled staff in Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFAT) which is delivered by the SPFL Trust in partnership with the Chris Mitchell Foundation.

The organisation was established by Mitchell’s family and friends, including Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield, to raise awareness of mental health and well-being as well as support players suffering with depression.

It comes after Mitchell took his own life in May 2016 after a period of depression that followed the end of his career through injury – the former Falkirk and Scotland U21 international was just 27-years-old.

On the foundation, Arfield said: “Chris (Mitchell) 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.”

Former Falkirk player Chris Mitchell took his own life in May 2016 after a period of depression following the end of his playing career

An average of five participants from every SPFL club have already been trained over the last four years with a significant increase in the rate of sign ups during the pandemic – accounting for nearly 20 per cent of all participants since the training launched.

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.

Bernadette Malone, chair, SPFL Trust, said: “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.”

Philip Mitchell, co-founding trustee, Chris Mitchell Foundation, added: “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.”

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie

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