I just watched Clarke Carlisle and his wife, Carrie, talking to Five Live’s Aidan Childes today about their experiences during his mental health struggles. This included Clarke going missing recently and being found in a park in Liverpool. He was discovered by a man who had a few days earlier lost one of his closest friends to suicide. This man – a stranger to Clarke – put his arms around him, hugged him and wept on his shoulder. He begged Clarke to contact his family and let them know he was safe. Clarke’s wife was then reunited with her husband and following three weeks in hospital they are back at home together. His story – their story – is extraordinary, moving, inspiring, heartbreaking and incomplete and yet it is sadly more common than most people think.
I know several people who’ve had more than a brush with serious and distressing mental health struggles – either themselves or close family and friends. As readers of this blog will know, I’ve had my own struggles, although thankfully nowhere near as serious as Clarke or others I know well. I continue to take huge comfort from the willingness of people in he public eye – including now in football – to speak up about their own problems. Whatever people think about our “celebrity culture”, people in high profile positions, with name recognition, talking about mental health breaks down barriers and helps people.
The good news for the Carlisles is that in their area the NHS mental health crisis team were able to help Clarke and give him the intensive support he needed to get him back on his feet and are now proving ongoing support to help keep him there. That is sadly not the case everywhere, as provision of support is patchy and depends all too often on the outcome of a postcode lottery. If the government’s noble aspiration to achieve parity between mental health and physical health is to be realised then so much more is needed; more money; more people; more facilities; more training for GPs; more mental health teams in A&Es; more awareness of the signs to look for; more understanding of how we can all help each other; and vitally, more people like Clarke and Carrie being prepared to speak up and tell their stories.
These stories help; they help people’s understanding that these struggles can hit anyone, anywhere, any time. These stories really help. They really help.
Photo taken from BBC sport website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41736200