Merthyr men's group tackling the 'massive stigma' around mental health in the Valleys

A men's suicide prevention charity is helping "tackle the stigma" around talking about mental health in the Valleys.

Andy's Man Club has five groups across Wales, it aims to double that figure this year in a bid to help more people.

Mark Collins helped set up the Merthyr branch, he knows only too well the importance of having somewhere to be able to go and talk openly about what's on your mind.

He told ITV Wales: "We have a problem as men, I think it's the different chromosomes that we have, that we don't tell people our problems. We never have. It is not the manly thing to do allegedly."

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Like everyone at the club, Mark has his reasons for being involved. His son Ceri took his own life on 17 October 2022. A talented musician he had just turned 39 and posted photographs on Facebook saying how lucky he was to have such good people around him.

The following day, the popular former Cyfartha High School pupil, who had sung all over the world, took his own life.

Back in February 2023, ITV Wales interviewed Mark about the tragic loss and at the time he said "It was just horrendous" and added, "It was the biggest shock imaginable, and we don't want anyone else to go through this."

Ceri sang all over Wales and the world with records local people would instantly recognise (pictured here with his dad Mark) Credit: Family photo

Speaking to us almost a year on he acknowledges some people might find it difficult to initially open up to strangers, he admits he too was in that position.

He said: "On the first night, I had second thoughts about coming through the door to the first meeting.

"But I am so, so glad I did. Because people listen, people cry and people get very emotional.

"It's not all doom and gloom because there is some great support from the facilitators of the club.

"What goes on in that room stays in that room and that's the way it should be."

Public Health Wales now publishes a real-time suspected suicide surveillance report which aims to inform prevention work across the country.

Josh attends the Andy Man's Club at Merthyr Town FC and says it's great to speak out without being judged. He said: "I think we just need to get involved with charity and talk a lot more, to be honest.

"I think there is a massive stigma around the Valleys - that people cannot talk and I think there is no stigma.

"Be yourself talk with whoever you can. Our door is always open and you will be welcomed straight away."

The fear of "loneliness and isolation" is the biggest challenge anyone who struggles with their mental health will face, according to project and development manager Dan Rowe.

He says "being judged by other people" is a big issue too, adding "these are characteristics which we find very prevalent in men".

But Dan said: "When you come together, you do talk about it and you realise that there is an environment out there, where it is ok to feel however you do feel.

"You'll be supported and most importantly you won't be judged. I think that is one of the most powerful things about Andy's Man Club."

If you have been affected by anything in this article, help and advice can be found here.

Samaritans is available day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.

The Mental Health Helpline for Wales is available to take your call any time, day or night. Freephone 0800 132 737 or text 'help" to 81066 (charged at standard network rate)

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