Andy Roberts spent the first weekend of April 2016 playing football and spending time with his young daughter. On the Monday evening he killed himself.
“There were no signs, no warning. He just went ahead and took his own life out of nowhere, out of the blue”, Andy’s brother-in-law, rugby league player Luke Ambler told us.
“Nobody was expecting it. He hadn’t been acting strange or differently. He was just the same but now he’s gone”, Luke explained. “He was a normal lad. A bit of a rogue in his youth, but as he got a bit older he really matured and became a really brilliant dad who loved his daughter and loved to play football on the weekend. But now, you know…”
Sadly, the tragic death of Andy Roberts is just one of many examples of young men taking their lives.
In 2014, 12 men killed themselves everyday in the UK. That’s one man every two hours. 84 a week, 372 a month, and 4,623 a year.
Four thousand six hundred and twenty three.
Think about that for a second. That’s 4,623 sons. 4,623 brothers. 4,623 husbands, boyfriends, uncles, nephews, and friends both old and young, but now all gone for different reasons.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. “Not car crashes or cancer or drink or drugs or any sort of disease or illness – but suicide”, says Luke.
One of the reasons why suicide is such a devastating killer of young men is that it isn’t spoken about enough – but this is something Luke, who plays rugby for Halifax and Ireland, is trying to change.
He founded Andy’s Man Club, the group behind the #andysmanclub and #itsokaytotalk hashtags, which urge young men to speak out about their mental health, and have been going viral on social media in recent weeks.
— Luke Ambler (@Ambler09) July 31, 2016
You’ve probably noticed the two hashtags on Twitter and Facebook, accompanied by selfies of young men doing the universal ‘okay’ symbol with their fingers.
They tag five of their friends urging them to do the same, helping spread the important message that it’s okay to talk.
— Mike Haley (@mikehaley_1) August 8, 2016
— Matthew Lewis (@Mattdavelewis) August 5, 2016
— Tom Johnstone (@TomJohnstone01) August 3, 2016
The tweets are all accompanied by a message reading:
The single biggest killer of men aged under 45 is suicide! In 2014, 4623 men took their own life. That’s 12 men everyday, one man every 2 hours!!!! 41% of men who contemplated suicide, felt they couldn’t talk about their feelings. Only 20% of the UK know that suicide is the most likely cause of death for men under 45. Let’s show men all across the world that #ITSOKAYTOTALK.
— James Batchelor (@13_batch) August 4, 2016
The hashtag was only created on Sunday 31st July, less than two weeks ago, but it has rapidly gone viral. It’s already been picked up by numerous high profile celebrities and sportsmen, all determined to raise awareness for men’s mental health.
— James Arthur (@JamesArthur23) August 9, 2016
— Charlie Clapham (@CharlieClapham) August 11, 2016
— Dan Carter (@DanCarter) August 9, 2016
— Luke Potter (@lukepottermusic) August 6, 2016
Speaking to UNILAD about the hashtag’s rapid rise into the limelight, Luke said:
It all came as a result of my Facebook page dedicated to Andy and raising awareness of male suicide – Andy’s Man Club.
But I posted the original #itsokaytotalk tweet to my Twitter and it was quickly picked up by some of the other lads at the club [Halifax RLFC] who took part, and then some of their friends who are Rugby Union players also picked up on it, and then that was passed onto some cricket players and so on and so on.
Now it’s completely out of my control. It’s bizarre, it really is, but I’m absolutely delighted.
In the aftermath of his brother’s heartbreaking suicide, Luke set up the first Andy’s Man Club meeting as a place for him and Andy’s mum to go and chat. But now, following the success of the hashtags, Luke is planning to set up clubs in more locations. They’ll be places where people can go and openly talk about mental health, instead of keeping it bottled up inside.
People haven’t really asked me about my plan for the future, but we have a solid plan which we’ve worked out over the past few days. Basically we want to set up Andy’s Man Clubs in every major city in the country over the next five years.
I want to set up a place where people can go and speak to others about mental health, somewhere where they can get everything off their chest.
We’ve set up a crowdfunder to try and raise £10,000 and with that I’ll be able to send £500 to 20 clubs to get them going.
My dream is that we could get clubs together every Monday night at 7pm, so that gives everybody enough time to get home from work and to get to the clubs.
Every Monday I’d assign a topic such as anxiety, depression, bipolar etc, and we’d invite anybody and everybody to voice their opinion on it. We’d bring experts into the clubs too so that they could give talks and offer advice.
But essentially, it’s just a lighthearted place where people could come for a cup of tea and a chat.
It’s a place where people can come and just talk and have a laugh and feel good about yourself. You don’t have to have had suicidal thoughts, you may just want somewhere to go and hang out with other people and learn more about yourself. I will be putting on activities such as 5 a side, basketball and planning community events that we can all be involved in together.
Bring a friend and together let’s try and reduce the stigma that it isn’t okay for men to talk! This isn’t for self gratification for me or for any financial gain, this is purely to make a difference and I want to do it together. I would love other volunteers to come and help and help me grow this idea.
As the JustGiving page continues to receive donations – at the time of writing it’s almost surpassed 10 per cent of the £10,000 target – Luke is investing a lot of his time into the Andy’s Man Club website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube page.
He is particularly interested in YouTube, and tells us their page will be full of inspirational and educational videos dealing with mental health in the near future.
If you would like to donate to Andy’s Man Club you can do so by clicking here.
Let’s do everything we can to make sure they achieve their goals, by spreading the #andysmanclub and #itsokaytotalk hashtags among friends on social media.
Also, if you want to get involved with Andy’s Man Club you can contact Luke via the group’s social media pages, or by emailing [email protected]
And if you’re ever feeling down The CALMzone can offer you amazing support, when things get tough.
The helpline and web chat service are open 5pm to midnight, every day:
NATIONWIDE: 0800 58 58 58
LONDON: 0808 802 58
Alternatively, you can contact Samaritans on their free to call phone number – 116 123.
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.