Meet the man who started #itsokaytotalk: the male mental health campaign sweeping across Britain

Narjas Zatat@Narjas_Zatat
Monday 08 August 2016 16:00
Celebrities
Picture: Michael Steele/Getty/Luke is pictured far left

Male mental health remains a topic that is rarely touched upon.

Men are three times more likely to take their own lives, and suicide remains the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 according to a report by the charity Samaritans.

On Sunday Indy100 wrote about the new mental health campaign targeting men, #itsokaytotalk which seeks to encourage men to talk about their mental health.

People on Twitter post a selfie with an 'okay' sign, followed by five nominations.

Well, we've caught up with the creator of the campaign, 26-year-old Halifax Rugby player Luke Ambler.

What prompted you to start the campaign?

My brother-in-law killed himself back in April and it was completely out of the blue. I found it staggering – the impact it left on my kids, his family and friends. I decided something needed to be done, so I created a Facebook group called Andy's Man Club UK where men feel it’s safe to talk.

#Itsokaytotalk has really kicked off on Twitter. How did you come up with it?

On Sunday me and a friend were together and we wanted to do something that can get everyone involved.

I came up with #itsokaytotalk. A few friends jumped on it, a few rugby players did too, and before I knew it, it had gone viral.

There’s been so much positive feedback. The one that really touched me was this man who messaged me on Facebook with the words “You saved me.”

I’ve also received emails and messages of thanks, men telling me they feel they are not alone and that the campaign has made them feel that they can talk about their mental health problems.

Have you ever experienced depression?

I had a rough time when I was younger, with my parents’ divorce.

Also, for the last 15 years my mum’s been on epilepsy medication, but she’s been diagnosed with Non Epileptic Attack Disorder (Nead) – which is a mental health problem [ it is triggered by psychological rather than physical reason].

Dealing with that, growing up with a doctor telling you to “love your mum every day because she might fall and die” was difficult.

My mum also has really bad anxiety, and there were times she couldn’t leave the house and she suffered from heart palpitations.

I [dealt with it by] having an eating disorder – I dealt with things by eating. It wasn’t till I found rugby that I changed. I have such a strong positive outlook on life that it helped change the way I think.

Why do you think that male depression is still such a taboo topic in society?

Gender roles have to change from how we traditionally thought [of men and women] and showing emotions for men isn’t easy – people think men are the strongest in the family – it’s stronger if you talk about your feelings, and don’t bottle it up – that means more than physical strength.

How are you developing #itsokaytotalk?

The aim in the next five years is to halve the suicide statistics rate for men – that would be job well done for me.

We’re doing a documentary with the Lad Bible too.

Picture: Luke Ambler

Reach out, don’t be afraid, and face your mental health problem.

This isn’t just about mental health, it’s about problems. Come to the Facebook group.

The world is spreading compassion – get involved in the mental health movement.

More: #itsoktotalk: The brilliant reason people are making this sign all over social media

More: These sweet and funny cartoons say a lot about living with mental health problems

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