It’s OK to talk: Why celebrities are making the okay hand sign

Many men find it difficult to talk about mental health problems, which is something that needs to change. Just 38% of people accessing talking therapy services are male, but men account for 78% of recorded suicides in the UK, a truly shocking statistic.

Recently, thousands of people have posted photos of themselves making an ‘OK’ hand gesture on social media, accompanied by the hashtag ‘#ITSOKAYTOTALK’, but why?

Andy’s Man Club

In April 2016, an Irish international rugby player for Halifax, Luke Ambler, experienced a huge blow when his brother-in-law took his own life. Described as ‘a loving and doting father, son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin’ by Luke, Andy tragically committed suicide without any warning.

Luke wanted to raise awareness about men’s mental health, and try and eliminate some of the stigma surrounding the issue, so he set up ‘Andy’s Man Club’ in Halifax. The club is dedicated to being a safe space for men to talk about how they feel, and what’s affecting them. They currently have a counsellor who attends the group too, and Luke is looking at bringing in solicitors, financial experts and even martial arts tutors, to provide more specialised services to those who need them.

The OK gesture

To coincide with coverage offered to Andy’s Man Club by Facebook group ‘The Lad Bible’, who have over 15 million likes, Luke created the Twitter campaign #ITSOKAYTOTALK in conjunction with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm). This campaign was designed to try and encourage people, men in particular, to talk about and seek support for mental health issues.

Following a similar trend to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the pictures were accompanied with nominations, getting more people involved to make their OK signs, and spread the message further. The message was soon picked up and shared by celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Irvine Welsh and Carl Frampton have displayed their support by getting on board.

Why is this important?

Any campaign to raise awareness for mental health is important. A lot of people who suffer from mental health issues can feel like a burden when they want to talk about their issues or feel like it makes them less of a person, which obviously isn’t true. Especially for men, where suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 45, seeking help and support is incredibly important.

Talking about mental health is becoming less taboo in society, which is great, but it can be hard to know where to turn when you are suffering yourself. Raising awareness of existing counselling and mental health services is paramount to helping lower suicide rates linked to mental health.

There can be many causes for mental health issues, such as depression, stress, anxiety, loss or bereavement, or relationships, and many more factors. Seeking professional help, or support is not abnormal or uncommon, and can be the first step to recovery and happiness. Campaigns like #ITSOKTOTALK can really help to highlight how to access counselling services, and for that, they should be applauded, and encouraged.

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