Clarke Carlisle on mental health and football

Clarke Carlisle

Former PFA Chairman Clarke Carlisle has spoken to Dominic Rech at CNN Sport about mental health and football.

Carlisle made over 500 appearances during a career that spanned 17 years, playing for nine clubs across all four divisions.

Carlisle told CNN Sport: "How can I sit here in front of you and say that four years ago, I put myself in front of a 10-ton lorry, at 60 miles an hour and I didn't break a single bone in my body…

"I was intent on taking my own life."

It was December 2014 when Carlisle intentionally stepped out in front of a lorry on a road near York. He spent several weeks in hospital recovering from his injury, however, physically at least, he survived the collision relatively unscathed – a fact that he describes as a "miracle."

Carlisle told CNN that this suicide attempt represented a turning point for him, but his struggle with depression continued, in September 2017, he was reported missing which triggered a public appeal to find him…

Carlisle explains: "I was wandering around the streets of Liverpool, wondering what's the best place for me to die."

"I was thinking about a responsible way to die. It was that procrastination that allowed a couple of passersby to intervene," he said.

It was his state of mind in 2017, which still concern Carlisle the most:

"Now, a year down the line, where I am in the healthiest place I have been in my life - I would say that is the one that troubles me the most, because it was at a point when I was most aware.

"It's at a point where I knew that I suffered from depression, it's at a point where I had established my own charity to help educate others, yet still the illness was able to take me to those depths again."

Clarke’s tenure as PFA Chairman overlapped with the expansion of the PFA’s mental health provision for members.  

During that period, the players’ union set up a 24/7/365 helpline for both current and former members and also established a national network of counsellors.

Findings published by FIFPro the Worlds Players’ Association show that symptoms of mental health problems are more widespread in professional footballers than in the general population.

The research also found a strong correlation between severe injuries and surgeries and the mental wellbeing of players.

Carlisle certainly agrees with that finding, saying that when you are injured it creates "a feeling of worthlessness,"

Clarke also cites retirement as having a major impact on a player’s mental health, he explains: "You go from being fundamentally needed to obsolete, which in football usually happens at the age of 33 or 35.

"There are many, many things that can contribute to a player's downward spiral in football and we need to be able to mitigate the impact."

"It was a big, big blow for me, I was devastated. Everybody suffers from mental health. Once you start going down that road, it's very difficult to get out of it - it sort of spirals out of control before you know it."

Getting support via the PFA…

The PFA provides members with a 24/7 counselling telephone helpline. This 'round-the-clock' support is available to all members past and present.

All services are private and confidential, PFA members (or concerned friends and family) can contact the PFA: