I was sad to read about Clarke Carlisle this week. He had admitted that he was trying to take his own life when he was hit by a lorry just before Christmas.
Clarke had made over 500 appearances as a professional footballer, and was chairman of the Professional Footballers Association. He had also appeared on television, including Question Time, and had presented a documentary about depression and suicide for BBC3. Whenever I saw him on television I was always struck by an eloquence not usually associated with football.
He said a couple of days ago that he had become severely depressed. His playing career had ended, he was in financial difficulties and he also lost a TV role as a pundit. Speaking after his release from a hospital psychiatric unit he said “I ventured out of my room not as Clarke the ex-footballer, but as Clarke, a mental health patient.”
And this is the comment which struck me most as I read his story. Don’t get me wrong – it’s healthy to be able to own where you are. But being Clarke Carlisle seemed to carry a role or a label. This is true for a lot of people. When we are introduced to someone new, one of the first questions is ‘so what do you do then?’. Our identity is shaped by what we do rather than who we are as unique human beings.
I wish you well, Clarke, and I can’t wait to see you again on television and to hear you say ‘I am Clarke Carlisle’.