Brave Yorkshire man saved by Andy's Man Club urges people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day

A brave Yorkshire man who has told of his struggles with mental health has urged the public to 'speak out' and get help too - as World Suicide Prevention Day is marked in the city.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Joe Smith, 26, first started going to Andy's Man Club in Leeds in early 2018.

Andy’s Man Club is a mental health group aimed to ‘get men talking’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It has helped save the lives of more than 800 men across the country since it was set up.

Joe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention DayJoe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day
Joe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day

The club was formed in early 2016 by Halifax rugby league player Luke Ambler after his brother-in-law took his own life.

Since then, the group has expanded across the country and now has hundreds of men who attend every week.

Joe, who works in social media marketing in York, was pointed towards the group by a former work colleague and said it was 'one of the first steps' for him getting his head 'back together' following a struggle with mental health.

Read More
World Suicide Prevention Day: Here's who you can contact if you are struggling
Joe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention DayJoe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day
Joe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said he now has a 'greater resilience' than ever and having previously 'broke down in tears over nothing' - including 'not being able to find ham in a supermarket' - he now has a newfound confidence in himself again.

Joe shared his story as World Suicide Prevention Day is marked across the city.

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) provides the opportunity for people, across the globe, to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention.Joe has courageously shared his story with the Yorkshire Evening Post in the hope that it will encourage others to speak out.

He said: "The first time I went to Andy’s Man Club was shortly after the group started in Leeds in early 2018.

Joe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention DayJoe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day
Joe has urged people to speak out on World Suicide Prevention Day
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I was pointed towards it by a former teaching colleague and attending AMC was one of the first steps for me getting my head back together and getting back to being able to work.

"I have a greater resilience now than I did when I first started attending AMC.

"Before my struggles with mental health, I did have that but it left me completely to the extent I’d be breaking down in tears over nothing, for example not being able to find ham in a supermarket.

"I’ve found a greater confidence in myself since accepting that depression is a part of me for now, not trying to fight it, but instead trying to build things into my life to help me deal with it."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Joe said AMC has enabled him to be much more open with his parents and friends about how he is coping.

He added: "Whereas before I’d keep everything to myself and then a massive breakdown would happen, nowadays I have the self-awareness to know when I’m having a bit of a drop in mood, and then reach out to someone just to chat, talk it through, and realise it’s okay.

"You develop a greater confidence in those around you as well in that you start to trust those around you, that they want the best for you and to help you.

"Nobody has the words to cure a situation, but they do have the heart and compassion to empathise and support you."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages.

It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds.

For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected, according to the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Joe said he has met 'real friends' at the support group.

He told Leeds residents that they should never feel 'alone' and should speak up.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Joe added: "At AMC, you meet real friends, friends who will talk through the bad things and endure that alongside you for as long as needed and then, on the flip side, will embrace and enjoy the good times once you’re on the road to recovery.

"The first thing I’d say is that you’re not alone.

"Even in ‘normal’ times, you’re not alone but, with so many people having struggles through this pandemic and the conditions that has brought, you’re certainly not alone.

"I often say that I’d been training for lockdown throughout my whole battle with depression.

"I’d be isolating myself but still trying to find little victories to have each day, trying to be disciplined to drag myself out of a bad frame of mind.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"So the key advice I would give to someone would be to, firstly, speak up.

"It doesn’t have to be a professional, it can be a friend or family member.

"Just somebody who you are close to, let them know where you are at mentally, that things aren’t ok, and that you just need a bit of a chat with them.

"You can do that with one person or loads, you will find that people want to help you.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"People care about people and if you aren’t ok, other people will want to help you get better.

"Whether that’s an hour-long phone call, a couple of texts here and there to check in or a socially distanced walk/pint, people will offer to help."

Joe said advice he would give others is to 'build things' into their day as much as possible.

He said: "When people are out of work or are furloughed, there isn’t a structure to their day.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"So build stuff into it; have a shower, go for a walk/bike ride/run, do some cooking, eat well.

"I took that a step further and gave myself time limits to do certain things because I know that without a structure, I struggle.

"Try learn a new skill as well, or read!

"That was a lifesaver for me, the escapism you get from a novel or the knowledge you get from an autobiography or other non-fiction works can be great."

Lockdown has highlighted the need for 'face to face groups', Joe said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, he said AMC has successfully moved online and provide an amazing service for members.

He said: "Honestly, I think the greatest impact has been the realisation that face to face groups are the best thing for all of us.

"We have been working to run groups online on Monday evenings and, while they are great and supportive atmospheres for us, there really is no substitute for the face to face sessions.

"That emotional connection you forge in the two hours at the Building College can be huge and it will be great when we can get back there, welcoming new and familiar faces, working to save that one man."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Joe said 'there is no rhyme or reason' to mental health or who you can learn the most from.

He said: "People who come through the doors are from all ages, all walks of life.

"It goes to help you realise that you really aren’t on your own with your struggles and I often say the fact that we have people from a range of demographics is a strength for AMC Leeds.

"When we get new people through the doors for the first time, we have faith that there will be at least one person in the room who that new person can identify with, one person they can relate to.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"That person could be the reason the new person attends again, be the reason that person can keep themselves going through their mental health battles and, ultimately, that new person will have that same effect on a new person a few weeks down the line."

The Leeds branch of Andy’s Man Club meets weekly on a Monday night at Leeds College of Building at 7pm apart from bank holidays - however the groups have moved online since lockdown.

For more information email [email protected]

The Samaritans can be contacted free at any time of day or night, call 116123 or email [email protected], or click here to visit the website.

A message from the Editor: Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890. We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds. Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe. For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.

Thank you

Laura Collins