How Andy’s Man Club has helped save the lives of more than 800 men across country in less than four years
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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 over 800 men attend every week.
The first meeting, held in 2016, saw just nine people walk through the door.
The rapid expansion has been attributed to the ‘stigma’ of men talking about their problems being broken in recent years.
Andrew Greenway, 36, is a project development worker for Andy’s Man Club nationally.
He explained how the group had expanded rapidly and helped a huge array of people from all walks of life.
Andrew said: “Nationally, we have 800 guys at least come through the doors every week.
"The groups only started three and a half years ago and we had nine people walk in on the first meeting, so the progression has been great.
"The fact we have so many people turning up for support is stunning.
"I first became aware of the group after walking into the Oldham meeting three years ago.
"It helped me so much.
"We just want to challenge the stigma, it is a lot more acceptable in the last few years for men to talk in society.
"We are not going to stop.”
The group meets weekly on a Monday night.
Founder Andy Wilson explains what happens next: “First, everyone who walks through the door has a coffee and can grab a biscuit.
“Next, we do a bit of an introduction to the group and what it is all about before splitting into smaller groups.
“We throw a ball around and talk about any issues we may have, along with something positive.
“Everything said in the group stays in the group.
“We have some people who just listen but anyone can talk as much or as little as they like.”
The group discusses a set of questions each week as a set of small groups of around 10 people.
In the most recent meeting, the Leeds group totalled 57 - so Andy said the men are split into smaller sections.
He added: “We do the introduction together before splitting off.
“Some men have a lot in common or are going through the same problems, so it really helps if they are then put together.”
Dennis Relojo-Howell, a mental health advocate and founder of mental health website Psychreg, said the club is increasing the chances of ‘men engaging support’.
Dennis said: “Andy's Man Club has launched this amazing initiative which has the potential to help men who are struggling with mental health issues.
“In spite of the availability of support and discussions around mental health, many men continue to suffer in silence when they experience feelings of loneliness or anxiety.
“Those who work with men may observe that they don’t always engage with conventional counselling and psychotherapy approaches, and even with mental health services in general.
“There are three approaches that seem to work, a less emotional approach, mentorship, and an externally-focused approach.
“Andy Man's Club shows us some of the ways we can work that can increase the chances of men engaging in support for their mental health and well-being.”
The incredible story of the growth of the club comes as the YEP is also campaigning to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues, as part of our #SpeakYourMind campaign.
First launched in 2016, our campaign has received high-profile backing from the likes of Prime Minister Theresa May and Kensington Palace.
Lisa Lloyd - a Chartered Psychologist and Psychotherapist, Trainer and Consultant, said Andy’s Man Club helps ‘overcome the misconception that men don’t experience and shouldn’t express emotions’.
She said: “The facts say it all.
“Suicide remains the leading cause of death among men under 50, and men accounted for three quarters of all suicides in the UK in 2018.
“Add to that the fact more men than women end up in prison where mental health problems are high, and we realise that prevention is key.
“Men’s groups help overcome the misconception that men don’t experience and shouldn’t
express emotions, the powerful stereotypes around masculinity.
“Yet such outdated attitudes remain blockers for many men who feel that to admit they have worries is a sign of weakness.
Lisa said there has been an ‘increasing emphasis’ on men ‘being real’ in the past five years.
She added: “Over the last decade, particularly the last 5 years, there has been an increasing emphasis on men ‘being real’ with a number of campaigns including Movember.
“That is great but has it made a real difference?
“The average bloke I meet through my work is still dubious.
“The research backs that up.
“Men are still less likely to speak out, recognise symptoms of mental health problems, access psychological therapies or disclose issues to family or friends.
“Instead, they are more likely to use harmful coping methods such as drugs or alcohol.
“For men to open up and be vulnerable, they need to feel a real connection with their peers
who show understanding and empathy.”
Lisa said groups like Andy’s Man Club make a ‘real difference’.
She added: “Instead of a self-help group, think of a bunch of mates who are able to talk about what is really going on for them, sharing without judgement, exploring different perspectives and identifying strategies to cope.
“And all without stigma.
“The first step is always the hardest but it can literally be a lifesaver to man-up and find the balls to be real.
“These are the strong men who know what it takes to be their best.
“Getting this right in the workplace too is critical.
“It’s time we challenge the banter and become more authentic.”
“That’s about developing leadership abilities to promote working cultures where everyone really thrives.”
For more information on Lisa’s work, visit Itstimeforchange.co.uk.
The group meets at 7pm every Monday apart from Bank Holidays at Leeds College of Building.
For more information email [email protected]