Clarke Carlisle on his horror York accident: ‘I wanted to die’

5 Feb 2015 @ 8.27 am
| Health & fitness
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In despair… Clarke Carlisle. Photograph: BBC / YouTube

Clarke Carlisle has spoken for the first time about the torment that drove him to throw himself in front of a lorry on the A64 near York.

The footballer and TV pundit had been struggling with depression for 18 months. When he hit rock bottom he even considered hanging himself at Bootham Crescent, the home of York City. He played for the club between August and November 2012.

A series of personal and professional setbacks had left him in despair. “I wanted to die,” he told the Sun newspaper on Thursday (February 5).

clarke-carlisle-sun-front-pageOn the morning of December 22, 2014, Carlisle was hit by a lorry on the A64 near Bishopthorpe, and was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary with serious injuries.

He told the paper that he had thrown himself in front of a speeding lorry in a bid to end his life.

It followed his realisation that his footballing career was nearly at an end, and the decision by ITV to drop him as a £100,000 a year pundit.

After TV bosses told him the news he went to a casino and by the end of the night he had “blown all the money he and wife Gemma had”. Hours later he was charged with drink driving.

He said: “I had to die. This wasn’t escaping or running away. This was the perfect answer.”

Clarke disappeared for 40 hours, sleeping rough and planning his suicide.

He told The Sun:

I planned it meticulously. I got back to York at about 9pm. I did three laps of the city. I walked to the benches by the River Ouse.

Drowning is messy — people can jump in and save you. There are lifebelts.

I went to the train station but trains are too slow. There are bright lights and people can see.

I walked past Bootham Crescent — my former ground at York City — and thought about the irony of hanging myself inside the stadium.

He booked into a hotel overnight, then got up and walked around York for 12 hours before stepping in front of a train. At the last minute he thought the train wasn’t travelling quickly enough to kill him, so he jumped off the tracks.

Clarke walked along the A64. He said:

Throwing yourself in front of a truck is a very difficult thing to do.

I saw the big truck. There was no rush. I walked up to the barrier, stepped over it casually. The lorry was about 20 yards away.

I thought, ‘You’re the one.’ I took two steps into the road and then jumped into the truck, like a full shoulder charge. I can remember that impact. Bang. Then lights out. I don’t know how long had passed. It must have been a few minutes.

I opened my eyes and I could see my hands in front of me and there’s blood dripping down them. I thought, ‘You’re kidding me?’

Somebody said, ‘Don’t move, mate, help’s on its way.’

Amazingly he had survived. He had cuts, bruises, internal bleeding, a broken rib, a shattered knee and his head “went twice the size”.

On Christmas Day he was admitted to a psychiatric unit in Harrogate. He was there till he was discharged last Friday.

“I ventured out of my room not as Clarke the ex-footballer, but as Clarke, a mental health patient,” he told the paper.

“That was the first step in my road to recovery.”

Openness ‘elevates him to higher level’

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Clarke Carlisle playing for York City against Oxford in September 2012. Photograph © nican45 on Flickr

Communications & community director for York City FC Sophie McGill has just written about Clarke for the programme for the match on Saturday (February 7) against Dagenham & Redbridge.

“We are very pleased to see our former player, Clarke Carlisle, has left hospital. He has now candidly spoken about this incident as a suicide attempt and how he is getting real help for his mental health issues,” Sophie writes

“Clarke is already a pioneer in football with his appearance on Question Time and his work with the PFA, but his openness about the severity of his illness will now elevate him to a higher level.”

People in football know that some players have mental health and addiction issues, Sophie says. She adds:

They are after all just like the rest of us and we have worked with players over the years that have experienced such problems.

As a club, we have always taken a paternalistic approach and have tried to provide heIp and support where we can.

Our club chaplains have proved invaluable in this area and have given counselling and friendship to help players deal with the pressures of their lives and careers.