Hundreds of soccer players could be suffering from depression, according to players’ union boss Clarke Carlisle.
Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chairman Carlisle, who retired from playing at the end of last season, has spoken of his own problems and revealed he tried to commit suicide when he was starting out in the game He is convinced the problem is widespread and has produced a television documentary on suicide and depression among soccer players, he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
“I will categorically state there are hundreds of players suffering with this,” he said. “The numbers in society are one in four and footballers are members of that society.”
“The thing about football is that the reluctance to come forward and speak means there are so many guys sitting under the radar. As PFA chairman, I’ve had 15 to 20 guys come to me and say: ‘Clarke, there’s something wrong with me and I don’t know what it is or where I should go,’” he said.
Carlisle plans to launch a hotline for soccer players to call if they feel they need help.
And he recalled an occasion when, as a young player at Queen’s Park Rangers, he went to a local park with a bottle of pills and attempted to end his life.
“I’d decided that ending my life was the best and most pain-free solution for everyone,” he said. “It wasn’t a cry for help. I downed the pills and was expecting some really dramatic ending, like a movie scene. When that didn’t happen, I thought I’d go back to my flat, have another can and go to sleep, job done. It’s frightening, really frightening, to think about my state of mind back then.”
Carlisle also attributes his problems with alcohol to his illness.
“My belief and experience is that the majority of substance abuse is born out of depression,” he said. “I believe my alcoholism was to try to alter my state of mind, and that was because of my general level of unhappiness.”
“Now my depression has been diagnosed, I take drugs every morning. It’s not a ‘happy pill’ that makes challenges go away, but it balances my brain so I can see clearly the challenges I face,” he said.