Forced to lis­ten as my boyfriend was killed

Louise Rooney, 29, from Liv­ingston, Scotland de­scribes the worst phone call of her life

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I’d al­ways imag­ined that foot­ballers were flashy and over con­fi­dent, but Chris Mitchell was noth­ing like that. Watch­ing him play­ing with our ex­citable new Labrador puppy, Indy, my heart melted.

‘Isn’t she gor­geous?’ he beamed, rolling around on the floor with her.

Chris, 27, was the most generous, warm-hearted man I’d ever met.

I’d been sin­gle three years be­fore we met in June 2015 through friends.

He was a tal­ented foot­baller who had played for the Scotland un­der-21s and other clubs be­fore set­tling at Clyde Foot­ball Club.

Hand­some Chris loved ev­ery­thing about the game, es­pe­cially play­ing along­side lads he’d grown up with.

We texted for a month and I soon dis­cov­ered there wasn’t a bad bone in his body.

He was funny and de­voted to his fam­ily, dad Philip, mum Brenda, and his older sis­ter Laura.

Soon we were in­sep­a­ra­ble, and by that Novem­ber, I’d moved into his flat. Ev­ery­thing was per­fect. We even talked about get­ting mar­ried and hav­ing kids one day.

‘Indy is the first step to­wards our lit­tle fam­ily,’ I laughed as we fussed over her. But soon, Chris was strug­gling. He’d suf­fered a spinal in­jury in train­ing, which meant he needed surgery on his back.

‘I can’t play foot­ball full time any more,’ he said, pain in his eyes.

By Jan­uary 2016, his dreams of be­ing a foot­baller were over and he got a sales job to pay the bills. I knew it wasn’t the life he’d planned, but Chris forced a smile. ‘It’s OK, I’ll still see the lads all the time,’ he said. But over the next few months, Chris made ex­cuses to avoid them. I thought he’d be down the club all the time, watch­ing matches and hang­ing out with his friends, but he seemed hap­pier just stay­ing at home. Step­ping away from the life he loved was tak­ing its toll. That April, Laura told me she was wor­ried. ‘Chris told me that he’s re­ally miss­ing foot­ball and he’s feel­ing re­ally low,’ she said. I was shocked. Chris had never men­tioned it be­fore and I was up­set to know he was suf­fer­ing in si­lence. As a fam­ily, we did our best to shower him with love and sup­port.

We en­cour­aged him to see his GP, who pre­scribed an­tide­pres­sants and re­ferred him to a psy­chother­a­pist. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘You were right, I needed help.’ Chris took time off and went to stay with his par­ents for a week so that he wasn’t alone while I was at work as a fi­nan­cial as­sis­tant.

He was in my thoughts con­stantly and I made sure he knew we were all there for him.

‘Things will get bet­ter,’ I re­as­sured him.

Chris seemed re­lieved that he’d shared what he was go­ing through and when we spoke, he sounded up­beat and pos­i­tive.

But the same week, Chris told Laura that he’d been hav­ing sui­ci­dal thoughts. It was dev­as­tat­ing. Chris was such a pop­u­lar man, with amaz­ing qual­i­ties and ev­ery­thing to live for.

But hav­ing his dream taken away from him had sent him into a down­ward spi­ral that he was strug­gling to see past.

With us all around him, be­ing sup­port­ive, I was sure we could get him through it. On the week­end of

May 7, I had a friend’s birth­day party in Lon­don, 400 miles away.

‘I won’t go,’ I in­sisted to Chris. ‘I’ll stay with you.’ Chris wasn’t hav­ing any of it. He dropped me at the sta­tion and gave me a hug good­bye. ‘Have a great time,’ he smiled. Chris went back to our home and later that day, he sent me a photo of Indy ly­ing on the sofa with a new toy.

He sounded happy and I started to re­lax.

But the next morn­ing, at 10.10am, Chris called me in tears.

‘Things aren’t good,’ he sobbed. ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I begged him to talk to me, but I couldn’t calm him down.

Fran­tic, I called his fam­ily and they went round to our flat, but Chris wasn’t there.

Every­one, even the po­lice, tried to find him. So far away, I was be­side my­self. Then at 11.40am, Chris called. There was so much noise in the back­ground, I could hardly hear him.

‘I’m so sorry Louise, but I can’t do this any­more. I want you and Indy to know how much I love you,’ he cried. The line cut off… Col­laps­ing to the floor scream­ing, I knew what had hap­pened.

Within min­utes, an app on my phone con­firmed my worst fears.

Trains around the level cross­ing at Cor­ton, Stir­ling, were dis­rupted due to an ac­ci­dent. Chris had been on the phone to me as he’d stepped in front of a speed­ing train. Life be­came a blur. Philip had raced to the level cross­ing, as Chris had men­tioned it be­fore, but he was too late.

I caught the next flight home and grieved with Chris’ fam­ily.

We were all con­sumed with guilt. Could we have done more? But I was also so an­gry.

‘Why has he done this to us?’ I cried.

As we planned his fu­neral, it just seemed un­real.

Chris had his whole life in front of him – a life we’d planned to­gether.

Now it had van­ished and I was left in a trance.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple turned out to say good­bye to him.

If only Chris could have seen just how loved he was.

As we strug­gled to come to terms with ev­ery­thing, Chris’ fam­ily and I set up a me­mo­rial foun­da­tion in his name.

We’re also train­ing men­tal­health first aiders within Scot­tish foot­ball clubs and con­nect­ing play­ers with agen­cies to pro­mote pos­i­tive men­tal health.

It’s im­pos­si­ble for me to not tor­ture my­self over los­ing Chris.

I re­play ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion we had, won­der what I could have done dif­fer­ently.

But Chris killed him­self just two weeks af­ter we dis­cov­ered he was de­pressed.

We didn’t know just how dark his thoughts had ac­tu­ally be­come.

I don’t think Chris re­ally did, un­til it was too late.

I’ve had coun­selling, but two years on, I know I’ll never truly heal from the trauma of it all.

I think about Chris ev­ery day and will love him for­ever. With

him al­ways in my thoughts, I’ve tried my best to re­build my life. I have a new part­ner, Alan, 30, and we’re ex­pect­ing a baby girl to­gether this month.

We still have Indy and she re­minds me of the happy times I spent with Chris.

Foot­ball is a world of bravado and play­ers are re­luc­tant to show any weak­ness.

They feel like they have to give the im­pres­sion ev­ery­thing is fine – even when it re­ally isn’t.

We’ll con­tinue to raise aware­ness so that every­one, male or fe­male, knows it’s OK to ask for help.

Reach­ing out is the first step in prevent­ing more tragedies like the one we have to live with ev­ery day.

Chris told me he couldn’t go on

We ral­lied round to sup­port him

Our puppy Indy was the start of our fam­ily

Chris was dev­as­tated when his foot­ball ca­reer ended I miss him ev­ery day

Don’t suf­fer in si­lence

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