Footballers Direct staff are going to tune in to Football’s Suicide Secret tonight. In it, former professional player and TV presenter Clarke Carlisle looks at the ways in which depression can impact on famous footballers and takes his findings to the FA.
Carlisle represented nine clubs during his footballing career before retiring this May. In 2002 he won ITV’s Britain’s Brainiest Footballer and he was the first footballer to appear on Question Time. You might say he has a fair bit going for him – looks, brains and talent! Yet in his prime as a professional player for QPR, and a player for the England Under-21s team, Carlisle attempted suicide. In tonight’s programme he tells of the way that the pressures of being in the public eye almost resulted in his senseless, early death.
“I went to a park near my home in Acton armed with lots of painkillers and thought ‘I’m going to take all these pills and kill myself, because I’m no use to anyone’”, he says.
In a report on the BBC website he explained: “I’d just suffered a severe knee injury and had convinced myself that without football people would see me for what I really was – which was nothing.
“My irrational mind had made me think suicide was a rational action…So I sat on a bench in the park, washed the pills down with a can of beer, and waited for it to happen. In the end I was incredibly lucky, because my girlfriend found me and I was rushed to hospital in time to have my stomach pumped.”
As a young man, Carlisle was not alone in believing that in taking his own life he may find the only solution to the problems that he was facing. Suicide is the biggest killer of men between the ages of 18 and 35 and it can affect anyone, even the most unexpected of people.
Suicide attempts are often triggered by depression and fear of failure and it is not always obvious that a person is having thoughts that can lead to such a shocking and tragic conclusion. As discussed in tonight’s programme, for footballers like Gary Speed and Robert Enke it is too late to get the help needed. But by raising awareness that even those people who appear most healthy, confident and successful can be secretly finding the pressures of life, or the fear of failure too much to bear, it is hoped that more deaths will be avoided.
You can watch Football’s Suicide Secret on BBC Three at 21:00 BST tonight – Tuesday, 9 July.