Every Monday, at 7pm, thousands of men across the country arrive at village halls and working men’s clubs to talk. Not about women, or sport, but about their feelings.
It was an initiative sparked by a rugby player from Calderdale, former Leeds Rhinos, Halifax and Ireland International player Luke Ambler, after the death of his brother-in-law Andy.
Determined to break down the barriers around mental health, he wanted to give men the chance to open up, to really talk, about their feelings.
And in the year since its conception, Andy’s Man Club has skyrocketed. There is a waiting list of 100 towns, cities, and communities keen to explore this simple idea, with a Facebook group of thousands.
“One man, every two hours, takes his own life in this country,” said Mr Ambler. “They might have lost a job, broken up with a partner, and feel that life isn’t worth living any more. We want to show them it is. It’s just guys, who have been through problems, and know what it’s like. It is working.”
Mr Ambler’s brother-in-law Andy Roberts, a father from Halifax, took his own life in April last year at the age of 23. There had been no warning signs. “There were no signals,” said Mr Ambler. “He was a young lad who, on the surface, was fine.”
Having to break the news to his partner Lisa that her brother had died, Mr Ambler felt a sense of frustration that there was nothing he could do to ease her pain.
There is still too much of a stigma he says, a mentality among men where it’s acceptable to bottle up feelings. That was the initiative behind Andy’s Man’s Club.
“I didn’t think anyone would come,” he said. “That first night, nine men turned up. The week after, it was 15. All in Andy’s name. We’ve now got 12 clubs. There’s one in Scotland, one in Wales. There’s 400 people at the one in Halifax. People from India, Germany, Switzerland, who have reached out. There is a positive to come from Andy’s death. There will be plenty of dads, brothers, uncles, even mothers, sisters, daughters, who are affected by that ripple effect of saving lives.
“This isn’t about ticking boxes. This is about men. We need to create a culture within a group of friends, or a community, where it’s OK to talk.”
Around 170 people walked through Halifax town centre, making a human chain around the Woolshops shopping precinct and along North Bridge to raise awareness of suicide and mental health issues on Sunday.
Kieran Holliday, from Andy’s Man Club, said the bridge had been a site where people had taken their lives and the group gathered their to pay tribute. Mr Holliday said: “People walking past joined us to take part, they were asking questions, we were handing out flyers.
"It was a good opportunity and there was a massive response from people coming over to talk to us rather than us going to them. There were tears, people who had been through similar things were talking about their experiences.”
The procession joined hands at Woolshops, Sainsbury’s and the recently revamped Piece Hall, while Mr Ambler delivered a speech.