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.
Challenging the biggest killer of men under 45 (in England and Wales alone 12 men die by suicide every day, that’s one man every two hours), Andy’s Man Club has only grown over the years, giving men a safe, judgement-free place to finally talk and turn things around.
Starting back in July 2016 in Halifax by Luke Ambler, Andy’s Man Club was founded 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 to start 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.
Mr Greenway said of the club: “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.”
Mr Greenway said: “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.”
Today, there are groups all over the country dedicated to helping men get through tough times, with seven meetups in Greater Manchester alone including the city centre, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and Altrincham.
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. For more information and to find your local club, head to the website here.
Also published on Medium.