It’s a subject that haunts his family every day, an insufferable pain that will never go away. Even after 10 years, the thought of his brother’s suicide still haunts Alan McGrillen.
Ten years ago, former Motherwell midfielder Paul McGrillen tragically committed suicide. It’s an event which has left a massive hole in the McGrillen family’s life.
To mark ten years of Paul’s passing, the McGrillen’s are remembering him with a sponsored walk up Tinto Hill, with all proceeds going to mental health charity SAMH.
Motherwell, one of Paul’s former clubs, published a video which detailed the tragic story through interviews with his wife Michelle and his two kids Joshua and Chloe. It has since gained mass public attention, with the video receiving over 750k views at the time of writing.
Paul’s brother Alan told NTOF that the support has blew him away: “We didn’t expect a reaction from it at all. You can never be sure of how these things are going to go.
“I had contacted Alan Burrows through Twitter and he was kind enough to message me back and we exchanged numbers. He also organised the Motherwell media to come and speak to Michelle and get things organised.
“The message it has portrayed has been exceptional. We’ve had messages from all over Britain and Europe. We’ve had Gary Lineker retweeting it and saying he was very moved by it. He made a lovely donation to the JustGiving page and took the time to message myself afterwards.
“We’ve had the best of social media. For a lot of people it can be dark place. The reaction we’ve had from every single person though has been absolutely tremendous.”
Tackling the mental health problem in Scotland via football
Mental health is a massive issue within our society. A recent Scottish Government report estimated that one in three people are affected by mental illness in any one year in Scotland.
It is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK according to a recent Office for National Statistics report. Those most at risk are men between 40 and 44 years old, with a rate of 24.1 deaths per 100,000 population.
Paul’s brother Alan believes football clubs can play a part in tackling this crisis: “Mental health is at the forefront of everybody’s minds. We’ve had many players and ex-players speak about the battle they’ve had with depression.
“It’s also in the stands. The people who are working day to day and who are providing their kids with a strip and a season ticket to go and support their team.
“A year after Paul died, Gary Speed committed suicide. I had wrote away to the SFA asking if we could get a Show Racism the Red Card type campaign throughout the full of Scottish football to start with.
“If you get that campaign and awareness through every club, not just to support the players on the park, but to support the people who pay their hard earned cash to walk into a stadium.
“The SFA and the rest of Scottish football really has to take this on board and try and run with it. This issue won’t go away. We won’t save everybody, but if we can reach out to one or two people, then that campaign does it job.
“These clubs are worth millions of pounds. They need to have a bit more due care and attention and promote this. I think it will actually save lives.”
What Alan misses most about his brother
It’s an issue that everyone, not just football clubs, has to get more involved in. The topic of mental health is a hard one to discuss, but the conversation is needed if we are to make any headway with making changes for the better.
Alan acknowledges this, whilst also candidly touching on some of the simple things he misses about his brother.
“Mental health doesn’t take any prisoners. The problem is people can’t physically see it. We are very good at telling people we love them, but when it comes to expressing whether you’re feeling down or a bit anxious about something, we don’t seem to do it very well.
“We aren’t indestructible, we’re human beings. You’ve got to meet it head-on as it’s killing people. There are many different types of depression. The very extreme end of it is what happened to Paul.
“There’s no point not saying things like suicide or things like that, that’s what happens to people. We never really noticed anything with Paul.
“I never thought in my lifetime that my brother would’ve done anything like that and I don’t think anyone does.
“It took me many years to recover from Paul’s death. Ten years on, it’s strange to say, he has made me into the man I am today.
“I miss him being here, picking up the phone and speaking to him, and the times that we used to go down the park together, especially since we’ve all got kids now. I miss everything about him, the sound of his voice and seeing him every day.”
Paul’s walk and helplines
On August 3, Alan and many others will be walking up Tinto Hill in Paul, and many others’ memory. The funds raised from the event will go to supporting mental charity SAMH.
The JustGiving page is currently taking donations and has seen many high profile clubs, players and ex-players make donations and share awareness of the cause.
If you are struggling with things just now, or are finding things too hard to deal with, please, talk to someone. Here are some helplines if you’re ever in distress.