A campaign set up to encourage men to talk about their mental health has taken the world by storm - and continues to go from strength to strength.
Halifax rugby league player Luke Ambler set up Andy’s Man Club and the viral social media campaign #ItsOktoTalk after his brother-in-law Andrew took his own life.
After seeing the impact of his death and the devastation it caused, he was spurred on to make a difference. The campaign, a picture with the”‘okay” sign alongside the hashtag, quickly picked up pace as tens of thousands of people shared it with their friends and followers.
Now Luke, 26, has his sights set on taking the campaign further and wants to use Andy’s Man Club as a model for more groups up and down the country.
He partnered up with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, which used the campaign for World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10).
Samaritans of Halifax and Calderdale is also teaming up with Luke to encourage people reach out for help and support when life feels overwhelming.
The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is “connect, communicate, care” and Luke is working with the Samaritans to push that important message.
He said: “We didn’t know anything was wrong and then Andrew took his own life. I don’t want anyone to go through what we continue to go through, so we’re delighted to be working with Samaritans across the UK and Ireland to get the message out that ‘it’s okay to talk’ to as many men as possible.
“If you’re struggling to cope, even if you think nobody will understand, take that first step, talk to someone, ring Samaritans, go and see a friend, speak to your GP. Your life matters.”
On Saturday, the streets of Halifax were flooded with Andy’s Man Club supporters for a special event marking World Suicide Prevention Day.
The #TogetherStronger event, organised by Luke as part of the his drive to break down the barriers and stigma surrounding mental health, saw people join hands in a human chain around the Woolshops Shopping Centre.
Luke said the special event was created to show everyone that the campaign isn’t just online and people are there for one another.
Throughout the day, Andy’s Man Club supporters were handing out leaflets and selling merchandise.
Following the overwhelming international response to the campaign, directors at Halifax RLFC met to discuss how to engage young people in Calderdale, while supporting Luke’s efforts to spread the message that people don’t have to suffer in silence. Starting this month, the club’s “Give Us a Try” scheme will be reshaped, making way for a brand new #ANDYSYOUTHCLUB initiative.
This will see Luke deliver presentations and workshops across schools in the borough.
The main aim of the programme is to improve young people’s self-esteem and develop confidence through a range of activities and exercises.
“We started Andy’s Man Club to make it socially acceptable for men to talk.
“It’s really not just adults, emotional wellbeing is an issue with youth too,” said Luke.
“Hopefully targeting people uner 24 and growing their strength and resilience will make a difference if they do ever find themselves in a difficult position.
“I think it’s amazing that the club are backing me so much on this.
“It shows really good morals from them.
“I’ve been approached by education providers all over the world, crying out for this sort of thing.
“Halifax is pioneering it.
“I believe on day we can roll it out nationally, and then internationally.”
If you would like to find out more, or sample a workshop, visit email@example.com.
You can also find Andy’s Man Club on Facebook and Twitter or at www.andysmanclub.co.uk.
If you feel you need some support, or would like to talk, visit www.thecalmzone.net.