Man up. Boys don’t cry. Be a man.
The stigmatisation of male mental health is often best reflected by the most common phrases they hear when reaching out for help.
Enter Altrincham’s Andy’s Man Club (AMC), a beacon seeking to promote healthy male attitudes and combat a culture that mocks the hint of any cracks in a man’s imaginary armour.
“It’s not like going to a hardcore clinic or a school setting where the people are straight-laced.”
These are the words of Anthony Crook, a Manchester father-of-two who first attended Andy’s Man Club Altrincham at J. Davidson Stadium, Moss Lane around six months ago.
The Altrincham branch represents just one of more than 100 AMC clubs which have been set up following the charity’s creation in 2016. After 23-year-old Andrew Roberts took his life in 2016, mother Elaine and brother-in-law Luke Ambler set about targeting the harmful cultural stereotypes surrounding male mental health.
Free, weekly peer-to-peer support groups every Monday night provide the foundation. All men aged 18-years-old and above are invited to the open-door sessions that are defined by the club as “no referral, no registration and no charge”.
After finding himself increasingly isolated whilst working from home, Anthony reached a loose end like so many others following the pandemic.
“Last October, my wife left me, and it was quite a sudden thing. I was obviously distraught. A colleague of mine from my job listens to a football podcast and they promote AMC (Andy’s Man Club).
“It’s a hard thing to go in the first time and do it, but it is definitely rewarding.”
Despite the perceived shame associated with reaching out for help, the figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal a damning trend. Men, specifically middle-aged men, are most at risk of suicide.
Of the 5,219 total suicides in England during 2021, men accounted for 3,852 suicides (74%). Anthony, aged 38-years-old, is nearing the most at-risk male age group for suicide. The highest suicide rate per 100,000 male persons were 50-54 years (22.5), 45-49 (21.5) and 40-44 (20.3).
Anthony, who is fundraising for AMC ahead of running in April’s Manchester Marathon, underlined the non-discriminatory nature of the support group.
“Some people don’t particularly like to talk, but there’s never any pressure for anyone to say anything.
“People can walk in, sit there for the first time and just listen. It’s all to get people there, to be comfortable and go at their own pace.
The Mancunian admitted that although he still experiences bad days, attending AMC has provided a strong support network.
“It’s 100% worth it. I definitely wouldn’t be in the place I am now without AMC.”
Proudly wearing the AMC slogan (#ITSOKAYTOTALK) during his training, Anthony – a local father – is helping to light the beacon and contribute in the changing cultural tide of positive mental awareness.
More information on Anthony Crook’s marathon fundraiser for Andy’s Man Club can be accessed here.