Feature: The support group fighting male suicide

It’s okay to talk – that’s the message from Andy’s Man Club, a men’s mental health group that’s trying to change the way men think about their emotions.

According to the Office for National Statistics, suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK.

In 2018, 75% of all UK suicides were male, and in England and Wales alone 12 men died by suicide every day, that’s one man every two hours.  It’s a shocking statistic, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Andy’s Man Club is on a mission to cut the number of suicides in men under 45 in half by spreading one simple message. It’s okay to talk.

The club hosts talking sessions across the country where men come together in a safe environment to chat about issues and problems they have faced, or are currently facing, with other men who may have been or are in similar situations.

No warning signs

The club was started back in July 2016 in Halifax by Luke Ambler after his brother-in-law, Andy Roberts, killed himself at the age of 23.

Project development worker for the group, Andrew Greenway said: ‘There were no warning signs. He spent the weekend with his family and on Tuesday he took the decision to end his life.

‘Luke saw the devastating effect Andy’s death had on his family and wanted to give men a platform to talk and share before things spiral out of control.

‘He wanted to stop families having to go through what his family are still going through.’

Mr Greenway said nine men turned up to the first meeting in Halifax, the next week 15 men turned up. And a few weeks after starting the club Luke decided started an online campaign to raise awareness around men’s mental health.

He shared a picture of himself doing the OK sign along with the hashtag #ITSOKAYTOTALK. Within four weeks it had been recreated and shared by 100,000 people, making it the biggest mental health campaign on the planet.

A brotherhood

Mr Greenway said: ‘There are now 29 clubs across the country and 391 men walk through the doors of those clubs last week alone.

‘They’re free to attend. You just turn up, grab a brew and talk as much or as little as you want. Our group ethos is that it’s okay to talk, but not everyone is at that point in their journey so they can sit in silence.

‘The sessions are peer to peer, which is one of the reasons it works so well. Some people may have tried the professional route and not gone on with it, or they might not be ready for it.

‘I started the group in Oldham and the first night I walked through the door I thought ‘I don’t need to share with these people, I don’t know why I’m here’. But as soon as it was my turn to talk, 33 years’ worth of stuff came out of my mouth.

‘The bloke that walked into the group that day and the bloke that walked out are two completely different men.

‘We get a full range of guys through the door, some say the club saved their lives, some say they just needed to be part of something.

‘It becomes a brotherhood, you form really strong bonds. It’s such a unique organisation, it really is a privilege to be part of it.’

The group is open to any men over the age of 18, not just those with mental health issues.

There is no referral, no signing in, no registration and no charge. Click here to find your local club. 

Photo Credit – Pixabay.

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