In the UK, men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women, with those aged 40-49 having the highest suicide rate of all. Men are also more likely to develop alcohol dependency and use illegal drugs, and far less likely to access mental health support.
So, in this bonus episode of The Brave Front, we caught up with Darren Edwards from Andy’s Man Club – a charity that offers men all over the UK a safe space to come to terms with the issues affecting their mental wellbeing – to talk about the options available to those worried for themselves, or someone else.
If you are at a point of crisis and need some support, here are some places you can turn to today:
- Andy’s Man Club
- Samaritans… – Call 116 123 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- Mind – Call 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Mon-Fri)
- App: StayAlive – provides quick access to crisis helplines, support and guidance
- App: distrACT – provides techniques and advice on avoiding self-harm or suicidal thoughts
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Interact with the show:
Hello, welcome to this special bonus episode of The Brave Front. As well as our regular show, I’d like to use these occasional bonus episodes to take a closer look at the work of some of the incredible UK charities set up to support men’s mental health, starting here with Andy’s man Club.
I recently attended the Baton of Hope relay event – an incredible suicide awareness and prevention initiative that saw a baton carried through towns and cities across the UK shining a light on suicide and its devastating impact on families. I was incredibly touched by the stories of many of those who so bravely spoke of the loved ones they lost and of the work they are doing in their names to ensure that those people in the darkest of places.
You feel that they have nowhere to turn, do have access to the support, help and tools that they need. I was also shocked to.
Find out that.
In the UK.
Men are three times more likely to die from.
Women, with those aged 40 to 49 having the highest suicide rate of all.
Men are also.
More likely to develop alcohol dependency and to use illegal drugs and surprise, surprise, far less likely to access mental health support.
The event showed me that, sadly, the stigma around mental health is still holding men back from seeking help, despite the fact that we are allegedly living in a more open and inclusive society. Also in attendance at the event were a host of incredible charities, many of which have been formed following a death by suicide, which have gone on to make an incredible life.
Living difference to men and women, young and.
Old across the UK.
One of those charities was Andy’s Man Club.
Taking his name from Andrew Roberts, a man who sadly took his own life aged 23 in early 2016, the charity was set up by his family to offer men a safe place where they can meet weekly speak openly in a judgement free.
Non clinical space.
Today it runs groups all over the country, supporting more than.
And working with over 500 facilitators, including.
Darren Edwards a.
Project development champion at Andy’s Man Club.
I spoke to Darren over a slightly dodgy line I’m afraid to find out more about Andy’s man Club and the lessons that we can all learn from it.
Darren, thank you for joining us today.
I really appreciate you.
Taking the time to do so.
Let’s just kick off if we may. Could you just tell us a little bit?
About yourself and a little bit about Andy’s.
Man Club and why we’re here today. Well, I’ve been employed now by Andy’s man Club. I one of the guys who stepped through the door for the first time.
About two years ago at my local club in Gosport.
And then like most guys do, they stick around and want to help the next guy come through the door. Then we step up. We come and partner the sport team or facilitators as we like to call.
Just welcome the guys through the door and then I had this amazing opportunity to actually go work for the charity. So my my actual job role is project, then I’m champion. I work for the whole of the SE. So basically anywhere South of Hertfordshire is is my area and I help support in Cornwall and Devon.
So it’s a remit. Find a venue.
Get a team of volunteers to run it.
They look after the venue, they look after the the whole session from Andy’s.
Man club and.
Get you guys through the door.
So the premise of Andy’s Man Club is we’re a peer-to-peer or group.
And the over the age of 18 can simply come along on a Monday from 7:00 till nine and get anything off their chest. That’s really troubling them. It’s quite a simple way of working. It’s very structured no matter where you go in the country to whatever club you go to, which there are 120.
Three at the moment.
You’ll get the same experience in every club.
I’ll go into a little bit more detail later on of how the pubs actually work, but it’s as simple as that. It’s it’s getting guys in. You don’t have to be suffering from mental health. It could be day-to-day stuff. Families, you know, friends work, financial difficulties, anything like that.
There’s no referrals, just simply come along on a Monday except for bank holidays.
Because obviously we’re shut.
Then, but just coming up and have a.
Chat and see what it’s like it.
Sounds like such a such a a simple premise, and obviously such a such a powerful one. And why? Why is it, you know, on a on a fundamental level? Why?
Is it important for?
For for us to talk about men’s mental health, not just this.
Week but all.
Year round? Well, you’ve you’ve heard all this and all year round problem. So the the mental health, we just emphasise it. So you you get all the companies and the big institutions involved and they really do push for men to talk we we’ve got that stigma.
And we where we’ve we’ve gotta be the strong ones. We’ve got to.
Support everybody support.
Our families. But you know, a lot of us secretly inside are struggling it it’s and it’s everything. It’s simple little things that can push you over the edge and. Yeah, unfortunately.
With males they don’t talk and they.
Unfortunately, a lot of them take you all to it.
We need to just get people talking.
It can be a.
You know anyone, so sons?
Brothers, fathers, grandfathers, anyone who who needs to talk and come along. The funny thing is.
With us a lot of.
Our referrals in a way come from.
The female side of the family. So your your daughters, your mothers, your grandmothers, your wives. They’re the ones who say to their husband. So go along, give.
It a go and see.
How it works if it works for you, great.
If it doesn’t.
You know that you can always try something else and the great thing.
About it is that once the guys get in.
You there’s no obligation to talk.
That’s a very important thing to bring up, but.
You’ll get guys who come along who will be.
There to support someone else.
So they’ll bring them along.
And it’s as simple as that. You’re just hearing.
From like shared.
Experiences one guy in the room may say something that resonates, and then another guy will go well. That’s that’s me.
So I can actually talk about it now.
So once the guys.
Start talking. It’s it’s huge for us. It really is.
You know, you mentioned the word stigma there as as something is still hanging around and still there despite the fact that, you know, we do talk a lot more around mental health now it’s a lot more in the press. It’s a lot.
More out there and.
Over recent years, people do talk about it a lot more. I actually have a bit of an issue with the term sort of mental health in itself in the fact that it’s so broad and so all-encompassing, it can cover everything.
That whole spectrum from low mood all the way through to suicidal ideation, you know, and that the real top level.
What would your advice be in terms of recognising in yourself when your mental well-being, maybe taking a knot and you might need a hand and or or or or to to reach out for support? How do you recognise that in yourself? Unfortunately, my first wife died by suicide.
So I had.
The bang. Here we go. Welcome to mental health.
Or the the stigma. The word stigma comes.
Up and the.
Puts mental health right at the forefront.
I became very.
Antisocial it’s the best way of putting it so.
I wouldn’t go out of the house.
You start losing friends.
You’re not eating properly. You’re just.
Functioning is the best way of putting it. I’ll going to work. The only reason I left the house was because I had to walk the dogs.
But apart from.
That I didn’t want any social interaction with anyone, so you sort of you draw.
In on yourself.
That the the way I the sorry is.
I I I fell down well.
And there wasn’t an awful lot of help coming.
You know, for people.
Reaching down and and trying to pull me out, it’s it’s when you start losing friends.
That’s when you really think, well, what’s going on.
Is it me or is it them?
And if if you’ve got that feeling and you know, sometimes you do want, you want to scream. And unfortunately, when you go down certain avenues, the screaming is it doesn’t help because you know they they say well, you know you.
Have this or do this or try this service and for me.
It was 5.
Years of not turmoil, but just looking at myself and understanding and not going, you know. But if if you got someone who who dies by suicide is very close to you, you’ve had that ripple effect. So everyone else is affected in that close circle. And it was it was the question of why and that was what was troubling me.
All the time.
Why did this?
Why? Why did this course of action happen to me? And then you realise that there is a reason for why it’s happened and you have to live for that reason.
So me actually verbalising it and talking to other guys, you know and women.
Who I’ve talked to about.
It it’s just help.
Relieve that pressure takes on that weight off me, and when you can look round the room or look at people and they’re nodding as you’re talking.
You’re getting that.
Appreciation. They’re actually taking it in, so it just it does take that pressure off you and it helps you realise, yeah, people will listen. People do understand and it’s not just me who’s suffering like I am at the moment.
And that’s that’s a just.
A general for everyone who’s suffering from mental health. You you’re not alone, and you do feel very much alone when you are suffering because you you, you push everyone away. You don’t want anyone to help you. But just talking about it and then seeking help in any other way you can and all the services are there. I mean, there are brilliant services around at the moment.
And mental health and a lot of it isn’t advertised, which doesn’t.
Help, but it’s starting to really get a movement going behind this so that there is more and more information becoming available that that’s free to everyone that they you know they can seek advice and they can get help immediate help as well. There’s a, you know, a lot of the problems you get with some of the mental health. So it’s uh, it’s six months time.
It it simply isn’t anymore that, that’s that’s.
A bit of.
A false reporting you can get help.
Almost immediately now.
It it sounds so easy when you talk about it, isn’t it? Sounds of you, you know, it’s good. It’s good to talk. It’s, you know, you’re there’s Andy’s man club slogan.
It’s it’s OK to talk. It sounds. It sounds so easy, but.
But I know.
From personal experience that it’s it’s not, you know, you know, being brave enough to to, to talk about it is is, is, is a challenge in itself. And I must admit from my own experiences and. And you know, after I was diagnosed with cancer and I I I sort of sunk into a bit of a hole and and just just as you were describing and and I I totally recognise what you’re talking about.
Well, I find it incredibly hard to actually.
Talk about it and I and I actually found that.
What helped me was was talking but not talking about it. Uh, I found as a lot of my friends and family wanted to talk to me about it asked me how I.
Was how are you? But I didn’t want it. I I will talk about anything else other.
That so. So is it fair to say that that, you know, peer peer support and?
Talking about it.
Or or or talking full stop is what’s important. Don’t necessarily have to talk about your problems, but talking and in general terms can also be beneficial. Ohh yes, most definitely. Yeah, but you when you’re talking about, you know, the problem, you’re suffering at the moment is you’ve got to try and get a a way of looking at it for a different direction as well. So you’ve got to.
You’ve got to be quite progressive, so even though you know like you’re saying with your cancer and.
And generally living with that, it’s finding a positive and then you can type like what you’re doing now is with the podcast. You’re actually being very positive about a thing which really affected your life. And that’s the same sort of thing when you’re going to the main club. And and sometimes a simple positive is that you’re here.
And you’re here now. It’s a huge positive because you’re not. You’re not looking behind you all the time. You’ve you’ve got to try and look forward. Look. Look to till tomorrow. Look to next week. Look to next month and then six months down the line. We’ll think. Ohh. Where was I in January?
And then you look at.
Yourself and go wow.
The lowest to the low at that point in my life, and I’m now here. I’m talking to other guys. I’m getting other guys to open up. I’m socialising, you know, I’ve got my family back and that’s one of the the the huge things that you do get when, when when you start talking and when you realise.
That you, you.
Are alone in what you’re suffering from?
It how many?
Could be any illness.
But once you start to hear other people’s stories about that same illness, about the same problem, you’re going through, it just helps you to know that there are more people out there.
Rather than you being.
Stuck on that path and and not.
Sitting any deviation.
The fact that you’ve got people who can walk beside you in a way, it helps tremendously. So what? What would your advice be then to somebody think you know, you might have heard of.
Andy’s man club thinking.
Of thinking of coming along, but maybe.
Nervous about doing so? What?
Would your advice be and what can they expect from that?
First time they.
Turn up. It’s not to overthink it.
All you’re doing is going along and meeting a bunch of guys who are like minded and we don’t. We don’t drag you in. It’s the most important thing is it you’re going in under your own steam so it will just be a case of.
Right. Like you hear from Andy’s man Club and sometimes that’s enough of a welcome for the guys to go well, I am. But you know, I’m really nervous. I’m really anxious about it. So I just said, OK, then come in. We’re introducing it to a few people. There’s no obligation to talk.
So you’re going for the door. You get welcomed and everyone there is welcoming. It doesn’t matter what stage they’re at, where they’ve come. You know, you even the first timers, you know, the new guys will welcome new guys because it makes them really.
So he’s come and he’s and you guys as well. So we’ve got that sort of connection straight away. So we go up, we give you a cup of tea or a cup of coffee and a biscuit and then we just.
Sit you down. How it works is there’s five questions. The questions.
Work out as.
So a name and a positive reason for being there.
So that’s your first one. Ohh I’ve come in on the 1st.
Time that I’m.
So once your handyman comes about, OK, then that’s fair enough. Pass because we have a ball which we controls the room.
So whoever has the ball.
Was in control, and then you’ve got three questions. So how’s your week been?
You know, crap, good, indifferent. Yeah. And then you’ll get name a positive from your.
Week and you?
Know. Like I said, some guys really.
Struggle with this, but it’s fact. You’re it’s it’s not a cop out.
It’s a it’s it’s a.
Really good. The answer I’m here. I’m happy to be here and.
You know, just come to see what spell and then.
Anything to get up your chest, and this is the big one. So sometimes the guys who go.
You guys go.
Now I just wanna see what’s about. I’ll talk about next week or they will go fill in and tell us exactly what’s troubling them or what they’re unhappy about. Now, if you want to leave one of the guys is the facilitator.
Will go out.
With you just to check you’re OK.
If you go for.
A wee we’ll come back in. Cause don’t go in the.
Toilet with you?
If you want to leave.
Then that’s fair enough. We’re not, we’re.
Not going to hold you.
To any accountability Question 4, which is like a thinking question example, it would be.
If you could invite four people to dinner.
Who would it be?
And why? So it just gets?
Surprised, sinking. And it. And it puts the.
First three questions to bed.
And then the last question, like a really quick.
You can only.
One pie of the rest of your life. What flavour pie would it be so that some people will say apple pie or some will say steak and kidney pudding and they’ll be arguing? That’s not a pie. It’s a pudding. And and the one that always gets people.
Laughing is which way?
Would you would you have the toilet roll?
And it’s it’s a simple little thing like that, just getting guys laughing and and leaving all the baggage.
That’s in the room in the room.
Because whatever is said in an antis man club session.
Stays in that session, it doesn’t get.
Taken out, the only time this changes is if there’s a safeguarding.
So if you’ve got somebody threatening to harm themselves or others, and that and that’s taken out of our hands because that will obviously be a call to 999 or the crisis mental health team will be involved with that. That’s the only time we don’t take names. So there’s no data held about the guys.
Or anything like.
That, and if the guys want to.
Next week, come next week and that’s how it works. You’ll get guys who don’t turn up three or four weeks and they’ll come again and go. I’ve really missed it.
Because Monday is my routine.
I can just think right on Monday I can go in and let it all out and then the right week ahead. All good. And then then get around to member again. That’s just, that’s the simple premise of how Andy’s man Club works.
Well you you’ve explained it brilliantly.
Darren, thank you ever.
So much, and if anything, there’s free tea and biscuits, so there’s.
There’s a reason to.
Go actually. Yeah, that’s one.
Fantastic. Listen, thank you. Good time. I really, really appreciate it and I wish you well and and listen and good luck with with Andy’s man Club and it would be good to keep in touch.
Yes, certainly we will do. Thanks very much.
That’s it for this bonus episode. But if you feel you need to talk to someone in regard to your mental health, you’ll find some suggestions for organisations you can talk to today, including Andy’s Man Club in the episode notes.
Don’t forget you can keep the conversation going, but answering our bonus episode question, which this week is quite simply how has poor mental health impacted your life?
You can answer it on your mobile.
Via the Spotify both this episode page.
A link to which can be found in the.
Episode notes or through the link view.
Site in the.
Show profile. You can also interact with the show by sending us.
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Ideas for topics?
And things you’d like us to cover. Just head to the bonus episode notes. All the links you site for.
More details and the link to do so.
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In the meantime.
Though look after yourselves and I’ll see you for another regular episode sometime soon. Take care.