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Peterborough man leads Andy's Man Club against mental health stigma

Andy's Man Club was set up for men to talk about their mental health and receive support and encouragement to find help.
Andy's Man Club
Gary continues to help others through their hard times.

With around 24 men attending the group meetings each week, the club has continued to grow, and those who continue to go praise the group for helping them through their difficult times.

Gary Clarke, 51, has been leading Andy's Man Club in Peterborough for two years.

He said: "Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 40, it's important to fight against the stigma.

"It's a generational thing. People think that the man looks after the family, so he has to be strong for everybody.

"There's a misconception of 'We're men, we don't cry', but that's a problem.

"We've helped a lot of people, I've had many of our members tell me that Andy's Man Club is the reason they're alive today."

It's not just others the group has helped, but Gary himself relied on Andy's Man Club at a time where he fell into depression.

He said: "I've got a chronic eye condition called Keratoconus, without specific contact lenses I'd be almost completely blind. At the time, I was working at Peterborough prison and they were really supportive at first.

"A few years ago, I had trouble with my contact lenses which meant I couldn't wear them, and by Christmas 2017, it was getting harder for me to get to work because my eyes had become worse, I couldn't drive anymore.

"I was put on the rota to work on Boxing Day, and because I had to rely on public transport, I'd booked a hotel for Christmas Day so I could get to work.

"My condition was making me struggle. One day, I'd arrived in Peterborough for my shift and I just sat and cried for two hours.

"I was sitting on a bench, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't do my job anymore. I was devastated about my condition, and I was contemplating my next steps.

"I soon realised that I'd been sat there for two hours, and not one person had checked if I was ok. Not a member of the public or anyone. I found it odd."

Gary added: "All I wanted was for someone to tell me that it would all be ok, all I needed was some reassurance.

"After I'd calmed myself down, I called my sister and we went to the doctors a few days later.

"I was diagnosed with depression and signed off work for six weeks.

"I later made a mistake at work, and lost my job, and although I don't believe I deserved to lose my job over it, I'm much happier.

"I may have had to sell my house and drop from my well-paid salary to working part-time at Iceland, but I love my job now. It made me realise that money isn't everything.

"I moved in with my partner and her children and I'm happy with how my life is going. Losing my job was a blessing in disguise."

Gary praised Andy's Man Club for helping him get through his difficult period, explaining the group helped him cope with a lot of his negative feelings.

Andy's Man Club is a group that encourages men to open up about their mental health. The group currently meets every Monday at The Focus Centre, Dogsthorpe.

For more information on Andy's Man Club, visit their website http://andysmanclub.co.uk/

If you need help or if you're concerned about anyone, please contact The Samaritans on 0330 094 5717.





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