Ex-Blackpool defender says ‘code of silence’ over mental health has been shattered

Clarke Carlisle and wife Carrie are presented with the Speaking Out award at the annual Mind Media Awards
Clarke Carlisle and wife Carrie are presented with the Speaking Out award at the annual Mind Media Awards
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A major breakthrough has been achieved in tackling mental health, according to ex-Seasiders football star Clarke Carlisle.

The former Blackpool and Burnley defender claimed that the ‘British stiff upper lip’ attitude and ‘code of silence’ around the issue have finally been broken as he and his wife Carrie were presented with a major national award.

The couple accepted the Speaking Out Award at the 25th annual Virgin Money Giving Mind Media Awards, which honour the best portrayals of mental health in the media.

Clarke, who is a former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said: “Don’t be shackled, do not be burdened, do not be conditioned by what has gone before.

“The stiff British upper lip, it’s gone. That code of silence around what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling, it’s gone.”

The Speaking Out award is given to people who have made a significant impact by sharing their own experiences of mental health problems. The presentation to Clarke, has a history of depression, follows him being reported missing for a time last year by his family, who feared for his life.

He was found, in his words, “strolling around Liverpool looking for a responsible way to die” until a passerby spoke to him and encouraged him to call Carrie.

The award recognised her for her bravery in recounting her experience of Clarke’s disappearance and how she helped her husband.

Carrie said: “People have said to me, how could he put you through that? And my husband said to me he felt like such a burden to me and his family.

“Let me be clear, my husband didn’t put me through anything.

“If you’re suffering, you’re not putting anyone through anything.

“The illness is putting us through something. And the illness is putting you and your family collectively through something.”

Clarke also spoke about his hopes for their children at the ceremony held at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

He said: “They’re not going to have an upbringing like we had.

“They’re going to be encouraged to be emotionally literate, emotionally resilient – they’re going to be taught that every emotion is bone fide and welcome in our house.”

The awards ceremony, which also included a prize for TV’s Coronation Street for its portal of male mental health through the character Aiden Connor, were hosted by comedian were presented by Stephen Fry, present of the mental health charity Mind.

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive, said: “The best portrayals of mental health in the media not only help to challenge stigma and build awareness, but can have a direct impact on our wellbeing.

“Following last year’s unprecedented media attention on mental health, our research found a rise in people seeking help and supporting each other.

“Every journalist, producer and blogger honoured can be proud that they are changing people’s lives and creating a better national conversation about mental health.

“But while the media has helped to expand the conversation, the reality of living with a mental health problem in our society hasn’t improved at the same pace.

“This year, nine in ten people have faced discrimination because of their mental health and only a quarter of people have received help from health services.

“We hope the media can continue to highlight the systemic problems and injustices people with mental health problems face so many more can get the support they need.”