Andy’s Man Club’s club of the week this week is Hartlepool.
15 men from a variety of backgrounds with a range of complex issues and storms brewing in their lives got together to share their story and lend each other support. It was a cold winter’s night in Hartlepool, but there was nothing but warmth pulsing through the room once AMC’s session got underway. A range of topics were discussed on the night, with members of the club showing a keen and personal interest in their fellow participants’ issues and a dedication to helping them through each issue. It is no understatement to say that an undercurrent of brotherhood and friendship coursed through the group.
One particular attendee on the night was attending what was close to his tenth session. In prior sessions, this man had listened to the issues of others and hadn’t been forthcoming with the issues that were bothering him, but on the night, he spoke to the room and shared his story for the first time. Others in the group commented on how far this individual had come over the past few sessions and after speaking, the sense of relief felt by this man was evident to see. In addition, several members of AMC Hartlepool are taking part in the creation and maintenance of community gardens in the area outside of the session, a participant in this commented on how therapeutic this process is. One member of the group attended in what was only his second session, the week prior he had mentioned his love for creating music and how his mental health had presented a barrier to this. After hearing the encouragement of his peers the week before, this member came to the session and said he had thrown himself back into his music and thanked his fellow participants for their words the week before.
All in all the night was a perfect showcase of the target that Andy’s Man Club is aiming to meet. The level of support shown by attendees and facilitators and also the progress that attendees are making were extremely pleasing to see.
On a personal level, this was a fantastic experience. This was my first session and I went in with absolutely no intention of opening up and thought I’d purely be an observer. In the end, I spoke openly about my mental health and past experiences. The members attending the group were phenomenal, I’d never met any of them and I found myself opening up to them as though I’d known them years. The level of support these guys had for each other was genuinely touching. Tonight has drilled home just how important promoting a service like Andy’s Man Club is.
Before we left we spoke to club facilitators, Chris Studdard and Bob Thompson, who spoke of the difficulties posed by Covid-19 and the importance of running face-to-face sessions:
“I think in all honesty the fact we have been able to continue face to face has been a massive relief. AMC has become a much needed weekly event, getting out of the house and seeing friends in a Covid-safe space is a massive boost to most of our lads. The lads are coming on leaps and bounds week by week and are seeing warning flags in each other, and helpfully, gently working through them. In the first lockdown we weren’t running for a while, and then online only. By being able to run face to face meetings safely. We have seen our numbers grow very well, and the brotherhood and support blossom. The guys look forward to the meeting, and talk about how good they feel after.”
Oli Vikse, AMC’s Project Development Champion, said – “After a gruelling 3-hour drive to Hartlepool caused by (surprise, surprise) the M62, it was a welcome relief to come to a group with such a caring ethos and see the fantastic work they’re doing. I left Hartlepool knowing that our delayed journey was well worth it and I thoroughly enjoyed talking, laughing and even sharing some tears with my brothers in the North East.”
Over the last month, Oliver Murdock, an artist originally from Halifax now based in the South, has been raising money for Andy’s Man Club through one of his pieces. Mental Health has always had an impact on Oliver’s life, both directly and indirectly with close family...