Centre backs plan to get men talking

The Wilton Centre is backing plans to set up a group in Redcar where men can feel safe to speak about their problems. 

It hosted a talk by Michael Chapplow – the Area Lead for ANDYSMANSCLUB, a charity set up eight years ago after 23-year-old Andrew Roberts from West Yorkshire took his own life. Andy’s family had no idea that he was struggling with his mental health.

There are now nearly 200 ANDYSMANSCLUB groups around the UK where male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

In December the Office for National Statistics said the North East had the highest suicide rate in England – 12.8 people out of every thousand, compared to 7 in London – and it is thought that Teesside has the highest rate in the North East.

But there are only three ANDYSMANSCLUB groups in Teesside – in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Stockton – and only seven more across the whole North East.

“I think there’s a link between the high unemployment in the area and the level of social deprivation,” said Michael.

“It’s getting better and people are more willing to talk, but I still think – compared to women – men have a struggle and a stigma around opening up, talking and getting things off their chest and doing that in social settings.”

The charity has tried to set up a group in Redcar before, but this time – after speaking at the Wilton Centre – it looks like it will happen.

“It was a great opportunity to target so many people at once.  It opened up a good conversation. Everybody engaged and bought into it,” said Michael.

And the driving force behind the new group looks is going to be 36-year-old Matt Heap whose mum Lesley works at the Centre and organised Michael’s visit.

Redcar resident Matt has already visited Whitby’s ANDYSMANSCLUB and is about to receive training to be a facilitator for the new group.  The devoted father-of-two said he has very good reasons for wanting to help men who are struggling with their mental health.

Matt – who was a manager at Sabic and now runs his own successful business – tried to take his own life on two occasions.

“I think I’d probably been suffering for a long time but I was still functional,” he said. “I didn’t recognise or accept that there was anything going on.  I was just going about my daily life probably causing problems to others around me who were able to see there was something wrong.”

With the support of Sabic Matt had access to the best possible care and, although still on medication, is now able to recognise when he is feeling “that way”.

He said an ANDYSMANSCLUB in Redcar is desperately needed and he will continue to share his story: “I want to highlight that there is hope, given the right opportunity and meeting the right people. I imagine there’s as many positive outcomes as negative – but we rarely see that.”

As well as backing ANDYSMANSCLUB, the Wilton Centre supports local charities Footprints in the Community, Marske Hall and Zoe’s Place.

In July Leasing and Assistant Asset Manager Claire Morton and Finance Administrator Natalie Taylor will be skydiving to raise money for Zoe’s Place, one of the UK’s few baby hospices.