WHEN Brian Graham crossed the white lines of the turf at Parkhead as a visiting Raith Rovers player a decade ago, it should have been one of the best days of his life. A childhood Celtic supporter, Graham and his older brother Daniel often fantasised about the prospect of playing in the famous old stadium but when the auspicious occasion finally arrived, it would prove memorable in the most foreboding sense.

“I remember when I realised Daniel really wasn’t well,” Graham recalled. “We had a cup game with Raith Rovers against Celtic at Parkhead and my brother was a big Celtic fan.

“We grew up as Celtic fans and that was the first time I was playing at Parkhead, so I was excited and wanted my brother to see me there. But he was in his room with the light off and didn’t want to speak to anybody. That was when I knew he wasn’t well because if he was, then he would have been buzzing to see me play at Parkhead.”

Daniel Graham would struggle with drugs and his mental health before dying aged just 39. He was once sectioned after attempting to take his own life and spent time in and out of hospital but his younger brother is adamant that more could have been done to prevent his premature passing. The warning signs were grimly apparent, Brian says, yet he and his family’s pleas fell on deaf ears.

“You say there’s help there but in the wider community I don’t think enough gets done,” he explained. “Personally, I experienced it with my brother who tried to commit suicide in the house. My dad wrestled with him and managed to save him.

“He got sectioned, they let him out and they never really checked up on him. And then one night – he had his own house at this point – we went round to see him and mentally, he wasn’t in a good place.

“Me and my dad eventually took him to the hospital, we were in there for a few hours and then they just discharged him. They let him go again.

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“My brother wasn’t a saint, he had drug problems as well, but he was a nice person and he would give you anything if you needed it over the course of his life. But we lost him four years ago.

“His death will be recorded as an overdose but the day before he died he was in hospital. You could see mentally he wasn’t there and he was telling us ‘I’m done, I’ve had enough, I don’t want to be here anymore’.

“I was asking the doctor and the nurses if he could stay in and they said no, they needed the bed. My brother died the next day.

“It’s good that there’s a charity for players and when players die by suicide, it’s horrible. But in the wider community and for some players – it’s okay to speak out and get all the press but these people that are qualified need to do better for us.”

Graham was speaking in his role as an ambassador for FC United to Prevent Suicide, an initiative launched to help tackle the grave societal issue. He believes that by talking openly, the stigma surrounding suicide can be removed but he believes further action must be taken if the overall picture is to significantly improve.

“This is a great charity and I really hope there is change with this but one of the biggest problems is that there aren’t enough carers,” he reasoned. “There aren’t enough bodies to support the poor souls that are struggling and that’s why one of the biggest criteria is probably to try and change beds; try and get them out as quick as possible to get the next one in. That’s not how it should be.

“These cases aren’t going to go away overnight. These people need care on a daily basis. They probably need a phone call every second day to check up on them. I don’t think things like that are getting done.

“Some people will say ‘aw, he took drugs’ but I believe he took drugs because of the demons in his head. It will go down as an overdose but I personally believe he died by suicide.

“The day before he died – I know he was hard work at that time because I had seen him. He was a bit cheeky to me that day and he was a bit cheeky to the nurses and the doctors, which I get. He wasn’t mentally right. But these people are all dealing with this daily and know how to deal with it, and they were happy to get rid of him and say ‘I don’t want to put up with this carry-on anymore’.

“I think it is getting better in that more people are speaking out but I still believe that not enough people will speak out because if they do, they probably feel a bit embarrassed. I remember at the time I was a bit taken aback and I was a bit embarrassed.

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“I didn’t want anybody knowing about it. If I’m being honest, it was probably a selfish point on my part. Because I was in the public eye, I didn’t want what had happened to my brother to be out there but as you get a bit older, you realise that when you get an opportunity like this, you have to speak out. If this story could help another family … that’s why I’m doing it.”

Understandably, Graham feels that he will never experience full closure when coming to terms with his brother’s untimely passing but he found some solace shortly after Daniel’s death. And while he believes that he perhaps could have done more at the time to publicise the issue of suicide, Graham admits to feeling a sense of responsibility to use his platform to promote mental health.

“With the support that we gave him as a family, there were times when he got better,” Graham added. “We all thought he was on the straight and narrow and then you would see him a couple of weeks later and he was as low as a snake’s belly again. You’re trying to speak to him, to ask what you can do to make him feel better, and I wasn’t qualified enough for that.

“A short period after he died – this is going to sound a bit weird – I had a dream and he was in the dream. It was him apologising to me and the two of us were crying in the dream. I woke up in floods of tears and I was like ‘was that real?’. It was as if he was coming back to tell me he was sorry for his behaviour and it was as if we made up in that dream.

“It helped. There are some things I’ll probably take to my own grave but it did provide some relief, I’m not going to lie. After I woke up crying, I went back to sleep and woke up in the morning with a wee smile on my face that that happened. So it did help.

“I did feel embarrassed at the time [of Daniel’s suicide] and I probably should have spoken out then. But now that I’m a bit older, a bit more mature and I’m further on in my playing career I don’t care what other people think anymore. If I could help somebody get their family the help they need – that’s why I’m doing it.”

Brian Graham is pictured wearing the FC United to Prevent Suicide kit, as part of a national campaign to save lives. You can follow the team on Twitter: @_FCUnited.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or feeling suicidal, please don’t hesitate to ask for help by contacting your GP, NHS24 on 111, Samaritans on 116 123 or Breathing Space on 0800 83 58 87.