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Andy's Man Club seeks to inspire men to speak out

In these difficult times it can be hard for men to talk about issues and feelings rather than bottling them up.
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According to the Mental Health Foundation around one in eight men suffer from common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In addition, men are far more likely than women to go missing, sleep rough, become dependent on alcohol and utilise drugs frequently, as well as having a suicide rate three times that of women. 

While all this can paint a gloomy picture, there is help and support available from organisations such as Andy's Man Club, which works as a safe space for men to talk about issues and feelings they have been dealing with in silence.

The club was founded by Luke Ambler after his brother-in-law Andy took his own life.

No one knew what struggles Andy was going through so Luke, along with Andy's mother, wanted something set up where men could go and be open and honest and have a safe space to talk.

On the first night nine men attended, but now the group has gone national with more than 72 groups and more planning on opening soon.

Aled Hipgrave, who works as a facilitator at the Peterborough club branch, said: "As an organisation we want to reach as many men as possible to let them know that they are not alone, that there is somewhere they can come to open up without receiving any judgment.

"It is a simple concept, we sit in a circle and pass a ball around, when you have the ball it's your turn to speak. We have five questions every week, the first three are always the same - how has your week been, any positives from the week and anything to get off your chest.

"Everyone who comes has their own stories, but we are here to let them tell their story and be around others who understand what they are going through. The facilitators are not professionals, but we are all users of the group, we have our own stories and experiences to share also."

A regular member of the club is 54-year-old Tony Millington, who has been attending regularly for three years. 

Tony was dealing with various hardships in his life, losing his job which was his sole means of supporting for his family then subsequently being evicted through a no-fault eviction and having to live in St Michaels Gate in Parnwell for six months. 

"I felt like I couldn't support the people I loved and I didn't want to go on," Tony said 

"My wife found me at my darkest point and we just sat and spoke.

"The same night she saw a post for Andy's man club on Facebook. At first I was wary and I didn't want to attend." 

After many days thinking about it, Tony decided to take the hardest step of them all - the first one.

"One day, I told my wife I wanted to go just to see what it was like and I haven't looked back since," he said. 

"As soon as I stepped through the doors I felt welcomed, acknowledged and above all I felt like I wasn't alone anymore.

"I truly don't know where I would be without Andy's Man Club. I would recommend anyone who's struggling in silence to come in even if it is just one session and try it out."

The club itself was has around 10 regular members who visit weekly but numbers fluctuate with many people coming in whenever they feel depressed or anxious.

Aled said: "We're not here to force men to come and return every week if they don't want to, but we do want to let every man know that they have a safe place they can come to for a couple of hours on a Monday night to have a brew, a biscuit and chat.

"We want to let them know that they can be honest and not be judged for their thoughts and feelings and everything said in the room stays inside the room. 

"By giving men this safe space to speak without judgment surrounded by people who may be going through similar experiences we hope to make them feel like they're not alone, in turn reducing the problematic suicide rates amongst men." 

Andy's Man Club is open to all men every Monday from 7pm till 9pm at the Copeland Centre in South Bretton.