Clarke Carlisle’s story moves Jami supporters

The former footballer was a guest speaker at the mental health charity's annual dinner


In December 2014, Clarke Carlisle stepped in front of a lorry travelling at 60mph in an attempted suicide. The former Premier League defender and Professional Footballers Association chairman told a hushed audience at the annual dinner of mental health charity Jami that he was walking two days later.

“I didn’t break a single bone. For two, three weeks, I was in the mindset that I wanted to be dead.”

It was not Carlisle’s first suicide attempt and he spoke movingly of the “trauma of attempting to take your own life and failing”.

He said charities such as Jami were “part of the early intervention that stops people getting to that end game”. Based on the estimate that one-in-four of the population would at some point by affected by mental illness, the other three-quarters needed to show compassion and understanding.

He received a standing ovation from the 270 guests at the Montcalm Hotel in London’s West End, who raised £325,000 towards the £2 million the charity needs to raise annually to maintain services.

Interviewed earlier, Carlisle — whose clubs included Watford, QPR and Burnley — expressed admiration at the breadth of Jami’s work, in particular its Head Room café, charity shop and educational resource in Golders Green.“To have a dedicated space where people can relax and offload in whatever capacity they want is wonderful.

“We’re talking about an issue of human caring general society is sadly lacking in. People are struggling to find a definitive pathway to support.” It was engrained in society to look for symptoms of physical health issues from an early age. Until the same principle applied to mental health, “organisations like Jami are monumental”.

In his case, “the start of my depression came about through not dealing with a really traumatic incident in my life and emotionally suppressing that. It was the fact I did nothing about it. I let it take hold of my mind, my perceptions, my actions.” The impact on loved ones of those with mental illness was “sorely overlooked”, he added.

“For every sufferer, for every life lost, for every attempted suicide — and they are 20 times the number of successful suicides — there’s a partner, there are parents, siblings, children, friends, colleagues. Lives which are irreversibly changed because of that interaction with the person who is suffering. These are people left in emotional purgatory.”

Since going public with his story, people from all sections of the football community had sought him out to discuss their own mental health issues.

Laurie Rackind, Jami’s chief executive, told diners that mental illness “is probably the most crucial healthcare issue of our generation and yet also probably the most misunderstood”.

At any time, the charity supports more than 1,000 people in their recovery, including some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Yet clients often encountered ignorance and discrimination.

His vision was of a community where mental health symptoms were as recognisable as those of a heart attack — and triggered an equivalent response.

Mr Rackind also thanked Jami’s partners at Jewish Care. “It is now over three years since we created a single mental health service for the community. It is a shining example of organisations leaving their egos at the door to do what is best.”

Other speakers included Jami ambassador Jonny Benjamin, who through a social media campaign in 2014, found Neil Laybourn, who had talked him out of jumping off Waterloo Bridge six years earlier. Mr Laybourn was among the dinner guests.

Mr Benjamin talked of the importance of going into synagogues, schools, Limmud — anywhere to raise awareness and get people talking. Seeing Head Room, a café focusing on mental health, open in the heart of the community had been a personal highlight.

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