Around about six months ago, I met a pair of inspirational guys for a coffee to discuss a new organisation that had made its way to Perth with a mission to combat the stigma surrounding mental health and to let men know that it’s ‘Okay to Talk’. In the UK, 84 men take their own lives every single week and suicide is still the single biggest killer of males under 45 in this country. Clearly, it’s a massive issue that needs to be tackled, and these guys were putting themselves out there to make a difference.
Fast forward half a year, and I sat down with Alex McClintock and Adam Allison once again to find out how the first six months of Andy’s Man Club Perth had gone. The journey they’ve been on has been staggering and it has really only just begun. The club still meets every Monday night in the Muirton Suite at McDiarmid Park and on Thursdays in Perth Prison, but it’s no longer the only club in Scotland.
And, not keen on taking the foot off the gas just yet, Alex and Adam continue to work tirelessly to get the word out about the shocking statistics around male suicide. They put in so much time and effort despite the fact they’re still working full-time in the prison service. All of the work they’ve been doing with Andy’s Man Club is completely voluntary and in their own free time, which makes what they’ve managed to achieve in such a short period all the more incredible.
“We were just launching the last time we met,” Alex said, “and it was a little bit slow to start off with. For the first few sessions, it was just Adam and I sitting having a cup of tea and chatting, waiting for people to come along.
“Then one night it just clicked – people started coming and we had a core group of about seven or eight guys coming along every week. That was last October and from then it’s just grown and grown. A couple of weeks ago just before the bad snow, we had 25 men at our session and even with the bad weather in the weeks that followed, we were still well into double figures.”
Adam added: “For the guys that come, they get so much out of it. It’s a brotherhood – that’s the best way to describe it. Their Monday nights just aren’t the same if they’re not at Andy’s Man Club. We’ve got a good mix of age groups; guys in their early twenties right up to men in their sixties, and they come from right across the Central Belt in Scotland.” It’s a brotherhood – that’s the best way to describe it. Their Monday nights just aren’t the same if they’re not at Andy’s Man Club.
Since they launched, Alex and Adam have now had over 700 men walk through the Andy’s Man Club doors between the community club on a Monday and the prison sessions on Thursdays. One of the main things that they set out to achieve when it all started was to give prisoners proper through care upon release and to see them come along to the public sessions at McDiarmid Park on a Monday. It’s something that appears to be working.
“One of the big things for us was that crossover between the community and the prison,” Adam commented, “and I think we’ve got that now.
“We’ve got guys who came to the club in the prison who now come to our Monday night sessions and unfortunately, there’s a man who used to come to the community sessions that has ended up in jail. So now he comes to the Andy’s Man Club on a Thursday in the prison. The link is there and these guys have been able to access the help and support on both sides.”
There has been lots of support locally for the club, and if you’ve been around the city centre you’ll surely have caught a glimpse of the branded Andy’s Man Club taxi from A&B Taxis. Alex and Adam have also had support from Perth City Boys’ Club Trust. Eric Duff from the Trust has arranged to donate petrol money to help the pair get around the local area to spread the message that it’s okay to talk.
The morning that we sat down, the guys told me that there had sadly been two suicides the previous week in Perth – proving that despite the hard work that’s gone into the club and the success that they’ve had so far, there is still an alarming number of young males losing their lives to suicide.
“We never sit back and get complacent,” Adam told me, “from the start we’ve always said that the dream is that one day there will be no Andy’s Man Club – that there will be no need for us anymore.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the case and probably won’t be for some time if we’re being realistic. I do think we’ve managed to raise the awareness and challenge the stigmas though, so we’re definitely moving in the right direction.
“I think one thing that’s become apparent to us is the huge hole that there is when it comes to mental health support in this country. Yes, you can access your GP and yes, you can be prescribed medication to help you. That’s great – but one of the best ways to tackle mental health problems is to talk and the waiting lists for NHS counselling is massive just now.
“Unless you have the money to go private, then there isn’t much out there in the way of talking therapy. And that’s where we come in – you can really see the difference it makes to people. A guy that walks in for his first week compared to the same guy after five or six weeks is incredible. The difference in his confidence, the willingness to open up and to talk – it’s like night and day.”
Alex added: “There was one man that came to us and he was planning to take his life that week. He’d just split up from his wife and he was in a really bad place.
“He came across Andy’s Man Club and decided he’d come up – it was a last chance thing for him, he openly admits that he wanted to take his life. When he arrived, he was a nervous wreck. By the time he left that night, he was buying the biscuits for next week’s meeting. He wanted to take his life - when he arrived, he was a nervous wreck. By the time he left that night, he was buying the biscuits for next week’s meeting.
“He openly talks about the fact that the club saved his life and it makes us both really emotional. It’s just one story and I’m pretty sure that there will be many other guys who have come to the club in a similar predicament, but it really highlights that what we do is worthwhile and making a difference to people’s lives.”
Andy’s Man Club Perth was the first and only of its kind in Scotland until just recently. That’s because Alex and Adam realised that they needed to expand the club to other areas of the country and make a difference in other communities outside of Perthshire.
Using the same model as they have with McDiarmid Park and Saints in the Community, Andy’s Man Club Dundee is operating out of Tannadice – the home of Dundee United – and launched two weeks ago with the help of Dundee Association of Mental Health. It was the next natural step for Alex and Adam, and they’ve already earmarked the next community that they’d like to roll the club out too.
“We approached both Dundee and Dundee United,” Alex told me, “but it was United who came back and were keen to get involved. We met with a woman called Wendy from Dundee Association of Mental Health and started to discuss launching a club there.
“We’re hoping to get out on the pitch at Tannadice soon just like we did at McDiarmid to make people aware of the club, but unfortunately every time we had that planned the games have been postponed due to the weather!
“We’re expecting there to be quite a big uptake in Dundee, probably more so than Perth, just because of the population size and the fact that quite a lot of people in the area already know about us.”
Adam: “I think it’s good that we are continuing to link it with the football clubs. It’s a good fit – just like Luke, the club’s founder in England, did with the Rugby League link. Ideally we’d like that to be the model for all our Scottish clubs.
“We’ve already started looking at the potential of setting up a club in Montrose and once the Dundee club is up and running I think that will be our next step.”
As well as launching clubs across Scotland, Alex and Adam are always looking at new ways to create awareness of the club and in October this year they’ll be embarking on an adventure that will see them scale dizzying heights and reach the summit of Africa.
Andy’s Man Club founder Luke Ambler decided he wanted to hold a session at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and both Alex and Adam will be joining him and other club representatives to take on the challenge. It’s something that they’re both looking forward to and they’re currently fundraising for the trip.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to really raise awareness,” Adam said, “it was just an off the cuff idea that Luke had and we decided we’d get involved too.
“We’ve started fundraising and we’re going to do a video blog for the duration of the climb. Alistair at JRS has said he’ll provide us with a 4K video camera for the vlog which is amazing. We’ll speak to the camera every day and we’ll have a massive Andy’s Man Club banner with us which will also include the logos and names of local businesses and people who have sponsored us.
“We’re trying to raise as much as we can for the trip and we recently completed a firewalk in tandem with Laura and Dave from the Caledonian Bar in Perth. They’ve said that we are going to be their charity partners for the year which is fantastic news.
Alex: “We’ve had discussions with Dave about potentially holding a Sportsman’s Dinner, as that’s something he has experience of doing in the past and we reckon we could raise a good amount from that. We have some ideas around the speakers we’d like for the event as well, so hopefully over the next weeks and months we’ll get the ball rolling on that.”
Alex and Adam’s work is just getting started in their mission to tackle the shocking statistics surrounding male suicides and you can expect to see and hear a lot more from Andy’s Man Club, not just in Perth but throughout Scotland, over the next few years.
If anybody reading this article is struggling or you know someone who is, please get in touch with the guys and seek help.
Andy’s Man Club runs every Monday night from the Muirton Suite at McDiarmid Park – see our Small City event listing here – and both Alex and Adam are always happy to hear from and help anybody who is going through a difficult time. Remember, ‘It’s Okay to Talk’.
Follow the guys on Facebook here.
For more information, please contact Alex McClintock on 07825873477 or at email@example.com.
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