Tina Malone's heartbreak over husband taking his own life after a 'private battle'

Mirror OK - Tina Malone - Words by Sue Lee - Tina Malone talks about her life with daughter Flame in Liverpool after losing husband Paul Chase to suicide. 
11.5.2024  Picture by Tim Merry
Tina Malone talks about her life with daughter Flame in Liverpool after losing husband Paul Chase to suicide. 11.5.2024 Picture by Tim Merry -Credit:Tim Merry/Mirror Express

Shameless actress Tina Malone has heartbreakingly disclosed that her army veteran husband's battle with PTSD led to his suicide, as she opens up about the tragedy for the first time and announces a charity set up in his memory.

Paul Chase, who was just 41 years old, tragically passed away on March 13, mere months ago. In the year leading up to his death, he struggled severely with his mental health.

Tina reveals: "I've not spoken about this publicly until this minute. It's the first time I've said it and confirmed it. Paul did commit suicide. I believe in transparency."

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Tina, aged 61 and known for her roles as Mo McGee in Brookside and Mimi Maguire in Shameless, expressed her enduring grief: "I'll never get over it. I miss him so badly and I love him so much. One thing I know... he's in a better place than here."

Paul served in the 22nd Regiment of the Cheshires and saw action in numerous locations including Northern Ireland, Belize, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Falklands. His comrades in the Army nicknamed him "Chevy" after his last name Chase, and he dedicated ten years to serving his country, reports the Mirror.

However, it was his internal struggles that ultimately claimed his life. Tina recalls the harrowing moment she realised something was wrong: "Paul hadn't come home the previous night. I heard sirens, saw flashing blue lights, and I knew."

Despite their significant age difference, Tina and Paul found love at a fitness boot camp in 2009 and later married. At the age of 50, Tina gave birth to their daughter Flame, who is now 10.

She confesses that without Flame, she would struggle to find a reason to carry on: "If I didn't have Flame I really wouldn't want to be here."

She details the harrowing descent of Paul into a mire of anxiety and depression, which led him to abuse alcohol and drugs. She recounts: "He felt lost, he felt useless. He couldn't fight any more. Drugs weren't recreational. Drink wasn't social."

In a landmark move last year, the Ministry of Defence disclosed veteran suicide figures for the first time, a step supported by campaigns from this newspaper advocating for better support for veterans transitioning back to civilian life. The Office for National Statistics revealed that in 2021 the latest year for which data is available the suicide rate among male veterans aged 35 to 44 was nearly double that of non-veterans, standing at 33.5 per 100,000 compared to 18.8.

Charities like Icarus, dedicated to aiding veterans with mental health struggles, recognise the urgent need for prompt and effective intervention. Clinical director Sarah Jones emphasises: "The sooner someone receives professional help, the better the outcome."

Diagnosed with PTSD three years prior, Paul's struggle will be commemorated on May 28, his birthday, when Tina launches 'Paul's Flame', a foundation aimed at supporting individuals in crisis. Reflecting on the past, she says: "When he got drunk he'd ramble about the army and I'd tell him, 'You have depression, you have emotional issues because of what you've seen'. But he'd sweep it away. He'd say, 'How will I get a job if I have that? ' He admitted it in the end but by then things had gone too far."

"This is a man who served his country. The only way I can get through is by fighting for change, addressing the issues facing veterans and soldiers, trying to help others."

Tina was inspired by family and friends rallying around, cooking, shopping, and helping with funeral costs. She says: "His comrades, some still serving, came to see me from all over the UK. Mrs Wilson and Mrs Reagan, from Flame's school in Woolton, were incredible in supporting her.

"My priest, Fr Tim Buckley from St Mary's, and all his staff were phenomenal with kindness and care. "

Tina had just come out of Celebrity Big Brother when she met Paul at the Peak District boot camp where he was a personal trainer. She says: "There was me, no lashes on, sweating, looking like nothing on earth... but we talked and talked.

We chatted about his Army time, particularly Iraq. He didn't know who I was, that I'd just come out of Celebrity Big Brother. We just got on. "".

At an end-of-camp event Tina saw him dance and knew he was special. She says: "I love a man who can move. We texted a few times and went on a date, spending the weekend in Liverpool. Thirteen days later he moved in. I told him, 'I'm morbidly obese and bipolar. I'm self-obsessed, self-absorbed, opinionated, loud and brassy. If I want to make a lemon drizzle cake and watch The Sopranos at 3am, I'm going to do it.' He just looked at me and said, 'I'll give it a go'."

Tina, mother to Danielle, 42, and grandmother to Dorothy, seven, married Paul in a grand ceremony in Manchester. Before his mental health took a turn for the worse, their life was idyllic.

She reminisces: "We travelled all over the world we swam with sharks in Hawaii, partied with the craziest people in LA."

Despite medical advice, they decided to have Flame through IVF. Tina fondly remembers Paul as an exceptional father.

She shares: "He was fun. He'd let her ride her bike down the hill without me knowing, sneak her out to McDonald's. They'd climb trees in the woods opposite our home together. But early on she realised the impact of what he had seen in combat. She says: "He'd concealed his PTSD, but imagine if you've been at war and you can't count how many people you killed. How do you come back? He loved the Army but it left him scarred.".

Paul's work assisting troubled teens dwindled, and his self-esteem plummeted. Tina reveals: "The last 12 months were hell, a rapid downward progression."

He stopped going to the gym.

She adds: "He was using prescription drugs and cocaine, he borrowed money and he lied. He was desperate."

They briefly separated, then reconciled. After Paul attempted suicide, he was admitted into psychiatric care in hospital.

However, due to bed shortages, he was transferred to an "under pressure" community facility. He also received specialist help for veterans struggling with addiction and collaborated with The Block, a community interest company that supports armed forces veterans.

Tina shared: "They do a brilliant job, although they get no funding. If Paul felt he was getting angry or was crying, that's where he could go."

The day before his untimely death, Paul had an argument over money, though they reconciled. Tina recounts: "He thought he was a drain on me, he said he was no good for me. It was awful."

In one of his final acts, Paul cooked a meal for Flame.

"Then he kissed me, said, 'See you later', and went out. Hours later he was dead."

Paul's military comrades turned out in force to pay their respects at his funeral. His service dress hat adorned the flag-covered coffin as the poignant notes of the Last Post filled the air.

Two months later, Tina still converses with him daily. "His toothbrush is still in the bathroom, his gym bag in the hall. I was honest from the outset with Flame about what happened. I didn't want there to be any mystery about how he died. She tells me she's seen him, in her room and in the woods where he waved at her. It might be her way of coping but it's a comfort."

Tina expresses frustration over the inadequate support for veterans grappling with mental health challenges. "If you have cancer or alcoholism, you know where to go. It's not like that with mental health. One of his Army friends said to me, 'The British Army are incredible at teaching you to be a soldier, but they don't teach you how to be a civilian'."

Speaking about her charity, Paul's Flame, she declared: "I want it to shine a light on people in poverty and in crisis. The single mum who needs a new washing machine, someone who has come out of the army and needs a microwave. I saw for myself when Paul died how a community came together. Paul would be extremely proud."

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