Jon Cooper reflects on his recent colleague call with Clarke Carlisle and his wife Carrie

Jon Cooper, head of mortgage distribution at Aldermore, reflects on our recent colleague webinar session with Clarke Carlisle and his wife Carrie.

At Aldermore we want to create a business where everyone can be themselves and no one is afraid to speak up. My personal objective is to remove the stigma stopping people talking about their mental health in the workplace and at home. To help remove this stigma I recently hosted two webinar sessions with ex-professional footballer Clarke Carlisle and his wife Carrie, and I want to share some of the tips and insight that they provided us with during the sessions.

Clarke talked to us openly and candidly about his recovery from attempted suicide and his mental health issues. As a footballer in a male-dominated environment, Clarke became obsessive and compulsive in his training so he could be at the top of his game, but behind the scenes, this need for everything to be perfect was affecting his home life. Struggles with complex mental health issues would eventually lead to addictions in the form of drinking, gambling and computer games.

But how do you start to open up? The first conversation is always the hardest as you don’t know how people are going to react. When Clarke did eventually open up to his teammates he found a sense of relief, and while the reaction was positive, he did realise he also needed professional help.  Through therapy, both Clarke and Carrie found that instilling routine and boundaries were, and continue to be, essential coping mechanisms. Carrie mentioned the need for self-preservation, unconditional love and how centring Clarke's needs first, before helping others, were crucial to his recovery.

As human beings we want certainty, so when things are uncertain this creates a breeding ground for mental health issues. Worry sets in and takes the brain to the most uncertain place, or creates scenarios, so that it’s prepared for any eventuality, even if it doesn’t actually happen. 

Carrie talked about intrusive thoughts which can affect her mental health, however the tool for this is to tell her brain that she’s not going to listen to these worries until later in the day.  Then at 5pm she takes a pen and paper and writes down all her thoughts. This stops her from getting overwhelmed by thoughts and worries during the day.

I asked them what other advice they could give as we’re all navigating through such a difficult time. These are their three top tips:

  • Know your boundaries: if someone talks to you about their issues, don't assume you have to 'fix' them. Feel privileged they've come to you to share their feelings, but sign-posting to other resources, inside or outside of work, is usually more effective in aiding someone's recovery.
  • Have a council of people to talk to: if you want to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, resist the temptation to share all aspects of your struggles with just one person. Have a group of people you can talk to about different themes of your mental health journey. That way, if one person isn't available, you'll still have support elsewhere.
  • Take self-assessment tests: Real progress doesn't start until you're diagnosed. Self-assessment tests* can help kick-start that progress so you can start working on your wellbeing from a place of knowledge.

Clarke closed our second session with this great quote: “Take the time to focus on your wellbeing now, or you’ll be forced to focus on your illness later.” 

Jon Cooper - Head of mortgage distribution

Clarke and Carrie have a list of local services on their website which maybe a useful starting point if you are looking to speak to someone - * is not responsible for the content on this website.