Laura Mitchell hopes new initiative will ensure players avoid going through same stresses late brother Chris experienced



Laura Mitchell admits she is hoping the scholarship programme named after her late brother can help football players avoid going through the same stresses that Chris experienced.

Former Falkirk and Queen of the South defender Chris took his own life in May 2016 after suffering from depression brought on by having to give up the sport he loved.

Although Chris did find employment as a salesman for his uncle, Laura admits she saw at first hand how the former Scotland Under-21 internationalist would worry about not having the adequate skills to secure a job.

Laura speaking to the media pic: PFA Scotland

The Chris Mitchell Scholarship Programme is a joint venture between the PFA Scotland, The Chris Mitchell Foundation and the PFA which will provide relevant courses to help players make the transition from football to the work place.

PFA Scotland chairman and Queen of the South midfielder John Rankin and St Johnstone playmaker Liam Craig are among those currently enrolled on an IT skills course.

Laura said: “A career after football is something that we know caused Christopher a lot of anxiety and definitely led on the depression that he suffered.

“He would regularly ask for help about filling in job applications, prepping for interviews and we know that was difficult for him because you don’t have any experience of that in football. You don’t fill in job applications or go for interviews in football.

“There was no help there, it was a case of sorting yourself out.

“With the scholarship programme that we’ve set up with the PFA Scotland the PFA down in England, it’s hopefully going to help a lot of other players overcome that obstacle and make it more seamless.

“It could have been less daunting for him had he had the skills that these guys are getting now.”

Having been troubled by injury, Chris left Clyde in February 2016 to concentrate on his new profession but concealed from his family how much he actually missed football.

Laura, a Trustee of the Foundation, added: “At the time we didn’t notice how bad it was for him because he hid it really well.

“From being a footballer and everyone knowing him as that to adjusting to a new lifestyle was quite hard for him.

“Christopher loved football and was always the life and soul of the party but he hid it well.

“I remember when we were out walking his dog on Good Friday in 2016 and there were two young boys kicking a football and I asked him, ‘do you not miss that?’ And he said ‘no’.

“A week before his death when there was something that was clearly not right, I said to him, ‘what is it that’s causing you these issues?’ and he said: ‘I miss the football’.

“I told him that I asked him that but he said: ‘But if I said no you wouldn’t ask me anymore questions’.”

“He did open up but he left it far too late, that was the trouble. We knew he was very ill and that he was getting professional help but we did not anticipate that we would be sitting in this situation.

“He said he felt pretty bad for the last six months of his life and to think that he struggled like that and hid it so well, it’s incredibly hard so it’s really important we help other players.”