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In the first of a series of one-to-one interviews, one of our Huddersfield facilitators, Andy Duckworth, spoke to Alistair Watkinson, one of ANDYSMANCLUB’s youngest facilitators and a long-term attendee of our Huddersfield club about his journey with ANDYSMANCLUB and his life outside the group.

Do you want to introduce yourself?

[Alistair W] I’m Alistair, I’m 22 and I go to the Cedar Court [Huddersfield] group.

How long have you been coming to AMC?

Just about a year and a half now.

Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself? What are your interests outside of AMC?

I’m a builder by trade, I’ve worked on sites for about two years. Hobby-wise, I’m very much into my music; I play guitar and I also do a lot of sports and outdoor activities.

Give us an anecdote that people might not immediately know about you.

That’s a tough one. I once got banned from IKEA for playing hide and seek with NERF guns. That was a proud moment.

Who was that with?

Just some lads that I went to high-school with. That must have been about five years ago, now.

Five years ago? You are irritatingly young.

Ha. Well, I am 22; 23 in July.

OK. So, what circumstances led you to attend ANDYSMANCLUB for the first time?

I’ve really struggled with my mental health for quite a few years and it reached a point where I’d attempted suicide. I started seeing a counsellor after that, but that wasn’t successful. I got my life a bit back on track and ended up re-lapsing and trying again for a second time. That was August 2019. It was from that point on that I started seeing the councillor again for trauma therapy. It was my mum who persuaded me to go to AMC. I was absolutely terrified to begin with. She told me about it but I didn’t think it was at all for me. Luckily, I had a really good friend who offered to come with me at first; just for a bit of support so I wasn’t on my own. He stuck it out for about three months, until I felt comfortable and started making some friends.

How do you think AMC compares to other local services and where do you think it sits, locally?

For me, AMC is always going to be the best thing I’ve done. I’ve done other therapies, but AMC is always going to be in the lead. I’m a very outgoing, social person and it’s a room full of blokes all going through the same stuff. So, for me, being in that environment with other people who’re struggling – with similar stories as to how they’ve coped in the past – it’s the most settling thing for me. It’s good to feel like I’m not battling these things on my own.

So, do you often try and put on a brave face to your friends outside of AMC?

Yes. Definitely. I was always that stubborn one that didn’t face up to things or admit that I was struggling at the time. I tried to hide it from as many people as I could. Since joining, I can talk to absolutely anybody about my struggles now. It’s really opened the door to me being able to speak about it comfortably.

Can you think of a stand-out moment where AMC has really lived up to its aspirations?

A few weeks ago, I’d gone through another rough patch. Luckily, I’d spoken to some of the guys so I’d not done anything daft. The following day I got about four phone-calls offering support or the opportunity to get out for a walk. Just that immediate outreach. That really kicked me in the arse as to what AMC does.

Where do you see yourself in the coming years and how do you think ANDYSMANCLUB has influenced that?

I’ll 100% still be going in five years’ time. As a very good friend of mine says, that’s non-negotiable. I’d like to say that I’ll be in a job that I love and I’d be content; all my hobbies still going and just making even more mates through AMC. There’s new lads come through the door every session and within weeks you’re messaging and chatting outside of group and keeping up with them. I’d just love to still have that.