Sophie was 26 when we lost her.
Sophie grew up in South London with her younger sisters, Georgia and Tara, attended local schools, excelled in her GCSE and A Levels, then went on to obtain a BSc in Biological Sciences at Exeter University. Sophie then took herself off to the other side of the world for a year, seeing new places and meeting new people, loving Australia and New Zealand, Bali and Fiji. She went on in the following year to work a ski season in Meribel. Eventually she embarked on a career in commercial property gaining a Masters degree in Real Estate at CASS business school, before joining Savills for two years as a graduate trainee. One month before completing her Chartered Surveyor exam, Sophie took her life.
Sophie was a participator, a doer, an achiever. She gathered friends and created lasting friendships wherever she went, she was always having fun. She loved sports and was very good at them. She was junior tennis champion at the local tennis club, became a water ski instructor working two summer seasons in Rock, Cornwall and one at the Peligoni Club in Greece, was an accomplished on and off-piste skier, and more recently, a surfer, a paddle boarder, a golfer, a cyclist. Sophie recognised the importance of physical health and nutrition and was also a full-on fitness enthusiast and committed to healthy eating. In the context of complete wellbeing, Sophie was also a practicing yoga instructor and enthusiast and an accomplished artist.
So, what went wrong? How did Sophie come to the point where her struggles were so overwhelming that, in spite of the many great things about her and her life, she seems to reach an emphatic conclusion that taking her life was the right decision for her?
We knew that Sophie had struggled on and off with anxiety and low moods as life's struggles came and went, but at the same time Sophie always seemed incredibly strong and proactive in overcoming any mental health challenges she faced. In particular, she found comfort and support from her friends and family, and also increasingly through her focus on physical health, exercise and nutrition. In recent years Sophie had been getting regular emotion focused acupuncture as an additional means of addressing her struggles, and while previously reluctant to talk to a professional, sought further help through her extremely supportive GP who was ready to tackle her challenges with her. To her doctor, there was no apparent cause for concern but rather common and addressable symptoms of anxiety. Sophie did not seem to be chronically depressed or at risk of suicide. This was a daughter, sister and friend who was continuing each day with her routine, living a healthy lifestyle, being proactive and keeping busy. She was open and forthcoming about how she was feeling, be it stressed, sad, tired, lonely, and often tried to talk through and process these feelings with us, yet it is now clear she did not share, and we did not see, the struggle that ultimately took her life.
In retrospect and in our many reflections following Sophie taking her life, it became clearer that Sophie’s challenges were more deeply rooted than any of us had individually suspected. Whilst there is nothing we can do now to reverse what happened to Sophie and to us, in raising awareness and action through proactive and inclusive events, doing many of the things Sophie loved, fundraising and working in partnership with mental health related charities, we are hopeful that The Sophie Clarke Foundation will be able to make a real difference for others.
Sophie spent a large part of her last year based in our family home in Cornwall, working from home over the various COVID lockdowns and restrictions. She was in her favourite place, somewhere which she felt was her spiritual home, in glorious sunshine (which brought her more joy than almost anything), with freedom to spend many hours enjoying all of her favourite activities – swimming, surfing, running, walking, paddle boarding and teaching yoga. We like to think of her, still there enjoying her freedom, finally at peace with herself and with the world.