'Breaking down barriers' - Radcliffe show #ItsOkayToTalk

This week, men’s suicide prevention charity Andy's Man Club celebrate their annual #ItsOkaytoTalk week - an initiative aimed at ending the stigma around men's mental health through the power of conversation.

There are currently over 120 free support groups nationwide, with sessions taking place on Mondays from 7-9pm (excluding bank holidays).

One of the charity's newest sessions takes place at the Neuven Stadium, home of Northern Premier League side Radcliffe.

The Radcliffe group is organised by lead facilitator Alec Nicholson, who understands first-hand how much of an impact the Andy's Man Club sessions can have.

Alec first attended sessions in Bury after going through struggles of his own, and being a Radcliffe lad, he was keen to see sessions take place in his hometown so more men could could begin to understand the importance of honest, healthy conversation.

"I wasn't too well about 14/15 years ago," he said.

"I didn't call it depression - I considered it a dark place or bad time, but it probably was depression looking back. I'm not going to take my own life now, but back then I probably could have.

"When I attended the sessions and got my time to talk, I got so much off my chest and it was the best thing ever.

"I cried in the car going home, then I spent a bit of time with my wife and told her about my experience. It really opened up the relationship between the two of us.

"She was the one who first encouraged me to go to Andy's Man Club. I actually went thinking I'd help make numbers up in the area, but it turns out they were helping me and I didn't know it."

Who are Andy's Man Club?

Andy's Man Club takes its name from Andrew Roberts, who sadly took his own life tragically and without warning in 2016, aged 23.

On average, one man every two hours takes his life in the UK.

Established in 2016 by Luke Ambler, Andy's brother-in-law, the aim of the club is to break down stigmas, support men struggling and lend a hand to suicide prevention.

Andy's Man Club has over 120 free support groups nationwide. During sessions, men can open up about the storms affecting their lives in a safe, judgement-free and non-clinical environment, without pressure or obligation to speak.

At present, over 2,800 men attend Andy's Man Club sessions each week, and they currently boast an army of 900+ volunteers

The movement continues to grow, as more people embrace the power of conversation and realise that #ItsOkayToTalk.

'At the end of the day, we're all men'

Despite only being five weeks since it's launch, the new Radcliffe session had 18 attendees at their most recent session - four of whom had never been to an Andy's Man Club group before.

Welcomed with a brew, the sessions aim to make participants feel relaxed and comfortable, separate from all the stresses and troubles of everyday life.

To begin, each session consists of five questions:
- How's your week been?
- What is your positive of the week?
- Do you have anything to get off your chest?
- Two quickfire questions to engage healthy, light-hearted debate

As Alec explains, working with clubs like Radcliffe is important as Andy's Man Club's message of positive mental health continues to spread far and wide.

"Radcliffe have been absolutely brilliant, from the very top through to the media team and every other member of staff," he said.

"These sessions do really target football and rugby clubs because that's where the general man will be.

"There's no referral policy either - anyone can walk through the door and get things off their chest.

"The sessions break down barriers, because at the end of the day, we're all men. We always say that what is said in Andy's Man Club stays in Andy's Man Club. You've got that non-judgemental place where you can find a safe haven to speak your mind.

"It's strange because for many people it's so much easier to talk with people you don't know, and that helps break down the barriers so you can talk to people who you do know further down the line."

How can I find my nearest session?

To find a session close to you, please visit: https://andysmanclub.co.uk/find-your-nearest-group/

Andy's Man Club sessions take place on Mondays from 7-9pm.

If you can’t find a group near you and you want to join online, email info@andysmanclub.co.uk.

Andy's Man Club can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and there are also regionalised session-specific Facebook groups, including for Andy's Man Club Radcliffe.

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