Andy’s Man Club – It’s okay to talk

Introduction

The sad and tragic fact is that a man will take his life every two hours in the UK… EVERY DAY.

Andy’s Man Club was created because it’s well known that men feel it difficult to share, and it provides a safe, men-only, environment for a cuppa, a biscuit and the opportunity for some banter.

Having attended my first meeting at my local Andy’s Man Club earlier this week, I’m going to explain a bit about what I learned in this article.

Andy's Man Club<br />
#itsokaytotalk

Firstly, some background about Andy’s Man Club

The ‘Andy’ in Andy’s Man Club is 23-year-old Andrew Roberts, who tragically took his own life in April 2016.

No one in Andy’s close circle of friends or family had any idea that he was struggling with life so much that taking his own life seemed the only solution to him. Clearly, having something like this happen without any obvious warning signs made them ask questions about male suicide and mens’ mental welfare.

Andy’s friends and family soon found out that suicide is the single biggest killer in men under the age of 50, with a culturally deep stigma around mental health rife in the UK.

Determined to use Andy’s death for something positive and to reduce male suicide, Andy’s Man Club was formed by his Mum, Elaine Roberts, and his Brother-in-Law, Luke Ambler, as a free service to all men in July of the same year.

Initially, a local group where men could talk in confidence and in a relaxed, informal environment. The concept worked so well that it has gone nationwide.

Every group opens on the same day and time around the Country. Every Monday night (except Bank Holidays) between 7 PM and 9 PM, the groups sit and begin to talk and listen… that’s it.

Essentially, Andy’s Man Club is a Peer-to-Peer Support Group where each session is led by a facilitator, principally to ensure that everyone that wants to talk gets an opportunity, and reminds people of the three very simple rules:

  1. No talking politics
  2. No talking about drugs/medication
  3. No religion

Also, everyone is assured that there is no judgement and that what is said in the room stays in the room.

My experience

My local Andy’s Man Club is about four miles away from my house. I arrived about 15 minutes early and waited and watched other guys go in; I don’t know why but I suspect it was nerves and concern about ‘fitting in’. I saw guys younger than me (I’m 62) and also saw some of my age. I bit the bullet and approached the already open door.

The room was well-lit, and there was a circle of chairs in the room with men coming in from another doorway and others by a large Thermos making a brew. Everyone was already chatting and introducing themselves. I thought I’d make a brew and try to hug the walls and not be seen, but I soon found myself shaking hands with people saying, “Hi. I’m Fred / Peter”, etc., and I was now in conversation. These were just ordinary men like me!

Once we had our drink (and a free cupcake supplied by a volunteer), we took any available seat. Some people were chatting; some just sitting and sipping their brew. The facilitator (I’ll call him Derek for now) opened the meeting by introducing himself, explained where the loos were, and describing the format of the meeting.

Essentially, a few standard questions are put to the group, and each person, in turn, has the option of answering the question or passing on it… no pressure or judgement.

There were 16 men in attendance, and three of us were there for the first time. 

As people began to speak (by answering the general question), some would expand on the answer to say things specific to their life, and some would offer support or suggestions.

Once the meeting was underway, it became very obvious that men were beginning to relax. Some jokes were shared, along with some light banter.

Obviously, I can’t share names or details of what was shared as the whole concept is one of what happens at the meeting, stays at the meeting.

Important concept

The whole thing about #ITSOKAYTOTALK is critical but, and this is the point that could be so easily overlooked… in order for guys to talk there has to be someone listening.

I went to my first session not expecting to speak. Not wanting to speak, if I’m being honest. What I found, though, is that just by turning up, walking through the door for the first time (which really is the most difficult part) and sitting with a brew you are helping. I also found that I was able to get something off my chest, a frustration that I was building up inside. I shared this thought and realised that pretty much everyone in the room understood what I was feeling.

The peer-to-peer concept relies on people being there, not necessarily because everyone present is having suicidal thoughts, nor because everyone has had previous suicidal thoughts, but because the life experiences of every man in the room come together, and the presence of every man in the room is a sign of support and of not being alone.

I saw guys that I would pass in the street talking about things in their lives that mere appearances don’t reveal. Burdens that they are invisibly carrying so, just being another ear can truly be incredibly supportive and can be the difference between someone being alive next Monday, or not.

I will be going back, no doubt in my mind.

FAQ

What does ANDYSMANCLUB do?

Very simply, Andy’s Man Club provides a confidential, non-judgemental environment of just men where it is safe and supportive to talk about anything that is worrying you.

Just having someone / somewhere to talk really can save a life and, ultimately, that is the objective of Andy’s Man Club. Every male suicide prevented is a success.

How do you attend ANDYSMANCLUB?

Find your local group online and arrive around 18:45. That’s it.

There is no booking or registration, and attendance is anonymous. The only people that know you are there are the other attendees.

Meetings are informal and run between 7 PM and 9 PM.

What does it cost to go to Andy's Man Club?

There are no charges for any of the meetings, they are totally free to attend, and even the tea and biscuits are free.

There is merchandise available, which can be ordered online, from the main website.

Do I have to speak to the group?

No, there is no obligation to speak. Some people are comfortable with listening to the experiences of others and can find help that way.

#ITSOKAYTOTALK is the slogan of Andy’s Man Club, but it is not an obligation.

Useful resources

Andy’s Man Club website: andysmanclub.co.uk

Men’s Mental Health Wiki: Andy’s Man Club – Wikipedia

Our post about making friends: https://22plusy.com/making-friends-a-guide-for-men/

 

There is always someone to talk to:

Samaritans: 116 123 https://www.samaritans.org/

Emergency: NHS 999

 #ITSOKAYTOTALK

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