Since its first meeting, Andy’s Man Club has created a viral ‘It’s Okay to Talk’ campaign. Its grown to 28 clubs across the country and is set to continue to grow. Aimed predominantly at men, the club is a place to get things off your chest, with no pressure or judgement.
Men aged 45-49 still have the highest rate of suicides, and although it’s promising to see how many more people are opening up about this subject, the need for speaking and listening clubs like Andy’s Man Club has never been more apparent.
We speak to the club about why it began, what visitors to the club can expect and what it is doing to help members during the current COVID-19 pandemic – a time which could be incredibly damaging to our mental health.
How and why was Andy’s Man Club set up?
Andy’s Man Club was set up because founders Elaine Roberts and Luke Ambler lost a family member (son and brother-in-law) to suicide. As far as they knew everything was good in his life; he was planning a holiday and buying a house in the near future, went out one night and didn’t come back.
The devastation it caused through the family was too much and as a town this was happening more and more frequently, so Elaine and Luke decided they would try to set up a small group for men to come and open up and talk in Halifax. They got a room at a small venue and the first week nine men turned up. This was followed by 15 men the second week which has now escalated to 28 clubs in less than four years.
Our overall aim is to halve the number of suicides in men under 45. I know that’s a massive task, but it’s something to strive for. Even if we only manage a quarter, we will have done something amazing.
What could someone coming along to a club for the first time expect to experience?
For someone attending for the first time, it can be quite daunting, so we have men in our tops outside each venue half an hour before the club starts to greet newcomers.
You don’t have to feel suicidal to come, you don’t have to have a mental health condition, you might just want somewhere where you feel a part of something.
Once inside the venue, men can grab themselves a cuppa and a snack and join a group, if there are more than 15 in a group, we split into smaller groups so it’s not too overbearing and the groups run smoothly.
The men are under no pressure to talk, everything is done at their own pace. We have five questions weekly. The first three are always the same then we try and mix it up a little with the last two questions – but we always try to end on a positive. We start with: “How’s your week been?” Then it follows on from there with: “What’s a positive from your week?” getting people to think positively. Then we have: “Anything to get off your chest?”
These questions are asked as a ball is passed around and the men then choose either to answer or decline once the ball is in their possession. We have found this so effective that we have never changed how we work.
Why is Andy’s Man Club different from counselling groups or sessions?
We are a peer to peer group; no one in our organisation is qualified professionally, we simply listen and talk. The men that facilitate the groups are volunteers that have walked through the door for the first time themselves at some point, and so know mostly how the men feel that attend, meaning they are totally non-judgemental.
How is the club helping people through the current coronavirus crisis?
We’ve been really active online, with videos from members telling their story and content to help remind our followers, not just to be kind to each other, but also to themselves.
We are also running the existing clubs online for any man that has attended previously, and are running a new members online club for any man over 18.
Once we can, we’ll open up the clubs with physical distancing in place for members to attend.
All anyone needs to do to get access to any of this is to email us.
Email: [email protected]