As training providers for counselling and psychotherapy courses, we are hugely interested in mental health provision both in our local community and throughout the UK. Today, we are looking at Andy’s Man Club, a national scheme with multiple clubs throughout the UK which provide peer support for men over 18.

In our region, there are five clubs in Hull, one in Beverley and one in Grimsby. We have been talking to one of the Hull lead facilitators Gareth Ashton about how Andy’s Man Club works and what inspired him to get involved.

Gareth Ashton of Andy's Man Club

Gareth, lovely to talk to you. Please can you tell me about Andy’s Man Club and how you came to be involved?

I first attended Andy’s man club in Hull four years ago after having the realisation that something wasn’t quite right with me. It all came off the back of a friend checking in with me really; they sent me a text asking if I was ok as I had seemed a bit distant and distracted when we had seen each other earlier in the week. I instantly replied “yes I’m fine, just a little tired right now” or something like that then for some reason I picked my phone up again and send a second text saying “actually I’m not ok, I’m far from ok and don’t know what to do about it.” This then opened up a conversation offering support and them urging me to see my GP as a first port of call.

I had been aware of Andy’s Man Club for some time before this and had even shared their Facebook posts thinking it may be helpful for someone unknowingly that someone was actually myself.

I plucked up the courage to attend on a cold wet January evening in 2019 after contemplating for many weeks whether to go or not. I honestly cannot remember much about my first evening apart from been made to feel very welcome and at ease straight away. I was met at the gate by a facilitator, given a brief overview and shown where I could get myself a drink before the session started. When I left that night I felt so much better in knowing I was not alone in feeling the way and it was a huge weight lifted.

After attending for around 10-11 months I was asked if I would like to help out and work towards facilitating and due to the growth of the clubs in Hull going from 1 venue to 5 currently I was asked to take the lead role at Airco on Goulton Street, both of which has given great pride and honour.

Tell me about your group. What do you do?

Andy’s Man Club is quite a simple but effective concept really, it is a peer support group for men 18+ to talk about what is going on for them in a safe and non-judgemental space with like-minded men.

The sessions start at 7pm each Monday (except bank holidays) and the whole night revolves around 5 questions that we ask and then take in turns to answer one at a time. We have a Foam Andy’s Man Club ball that gets passed around the group usually in a clockwise direction. When the ball is with you it is your turn to talk and answer that question (or not if preferred)

We always start with “How’s your week been?” which really isn’t too difficult of a question to answer. We then ask “what is one positive from your week?” after this is the more important question “is there anything to get of your chest?” this can be anything that the men would like to talk about and share no matter how big or small, this could also be a positive they would like to share with the room it isn’t always negative stuff

Question 4 & 5 change each week and tend to be more light-hearted. We often ask questions like “what film or book have inspired you and why?”

We then have an open chat at the end when things can be discussed further and often men with identify similar situations and offer advice and support.

The clubs run the same across the UK in over 100 venues.

What impact does the group have for the men who are involved and the wider community?

The friendships that get build and the support given helps so much. With the whole group being based around peer support the men help each other by offering advice, knowledge and information that may help that next man find further support whether that be counselling, crafts, hobbies or well, anything really. It is almost a community in a community, the support from each other is fantastic and it really feels that the communities are supporting by displaying posters, sharing social media posts, and raising fund and awareness of the club.

How do you think your own involvement has impacted on your own outlook on mental health?

Attending the club has helped me massively in so many areas of my life, more self-belief and esteem, helped me work out who I am, made me more accepting of my flaws and the ability to be vulnerable in sharing my emotions. It gave me a real interest in mental health and has even lead me to a change of career into the mental health sector through volunteering and training alongside the facilitating I was already doing.

What plans do you have for the future?

This is almost like one of the questions we ask sometimes and my answer seems to always be the same. My main plan is just to be better than yesterday, all those 1% improvements add up to something bigger in the end and keeping some consistency there I feel is the best way to for me to maintain some level of good mental health

What would you say to anyone considering coming along to a group?

If you are considering coming along to one of the sessions I’d say please do give it a try. It may not be for you but you will never know. Each venue has facilitators at the entrance to welcome you in. there is no pressure to talk and share you could just come along and listen till you feel comfortable to talk

You can get more information on Andy’s Man Club at www.andysmanclub.co.uk or by emailing info@andysmanclub.co.uk