A WREXHAM man has opened up on how a group aimed at challenging stigma surrounding men's mental health has helped him tackle depression and been a 'true life saver' for him.

Andy's Man Club launched its first north Wales branch in Wrexham in April of last year.

The free-to-attend group is based at the Yellow and Blue Hub at Eagles Meadow and has already proven to be an important tool for several men in the Wrexham area.

One of those who has felt the full effects of just what can be achieved through participating in the group is Darren Barker, who has decided to share his story with the Leader.

Darren, 50, is originally from Acton but has been living in Borras for the last 13 years.

He works as an injection moulding mechanic at Palstipak, he is married to wife Dot and has a 26-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter.

But, as he told the Leader, despite having a seemingly 'perfect' life on paper, like many others he has struggled with depression.

Darren said: "I have a good job, with a great all round shift/salary package, a happy marriage and two successful kids so my life should be perfect, but even with all that, life has a habit of grinding you down at times.

"Unfortunately for me, a lifetime of not correctly dealing with the traumas that life threw at me, left me in a very precarious position and I had reached the decision that there was no way forward for me any longer and I had decided to take my own life back in August 2022."

Darren added: "I began visiting Andy's Man Club in very early August 2022, following a long-term history of depression through a series of traumatic events that I had either witnessed or lived through.

"Thankfully I decided to attend instead of ending my life and opened up to Dot, who was and continues to be an absolute rock in my life."

When asked what the best thing about Andy's Man Club was, Darren added: "Being able to speak freely, in confidence, amongst other men who are experiencing their own storm is quite cathartic. It made me feel almost at home.

"There was no pressure to speak up and even though I contributed to the group vocally, I didnt 'really' talk with full honesty and transparency at the start. It took me around six weeks to fully unload my issues.

"Some guys will open up on the first night, some will take longer like myself, and some maybe never fully open up sadly. After that happened, every session became easier and easier, which gave me more clarity and more confidence as the sessions passed.

"Andy's Man Club has given me the confidence to better understand my depression (through therapy sessions) and put into practice my control measures, by having a weekly routine where I can check myself in, ground myself and release any pent-up worries and stress from the previous week.

"Also, I have learned how to stay in control of my mind and also understand my triggers slightly better, through talking about my own journey, as well as listening to others and learning from their own experiences. 

"Andy's Man Club has been a true lifesaver in every sense of the word and a huge part of my life during the last 14 months."

Asked about what he would say to anyone looking to join Andy's Man Club in Wrexham, Darren said: "Please, please, please do it! Walking through the door is the hardest part. Once inside, you quickly find a welcoming bunch of guys, from all different walks of life with a vast array of life experience, plus free coffee and biscuits!

"Someone in the group will no doubt have been through a similar difficult time as you have so there is always someone to relate to, or that can deeply relate to your own personal troubles. You are not alone and never will be.

"We are a family and I feel like I've made friendships that will last my whole life going forward. As a shift worker, I sadly don't get to be available every week for group. I attend whenever possible though."

Between August 2022 and October 2022, Darren made such good progress that he ended up joining the team as a group volunteer facilitator.

He said: "This was doubly rewarding, because as well as helping myself, I was also helping other guys along their journeys too.


"I got to the best mindset that I'd had in a very long time in the new year (2023) but soon after was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. This rocked me mentally for a few months while coming to terms with extra medication and the transition physically and mentally was very tough.

"I removed myself as a facilitator while I got on top of things again, and also sadly chose not to attend group for six to eight weeks. I have been going back to the group sessions again since June, and today (the day we spoke to Darren) ironically, I have been accepted back onto the facilitator team! 

"Coming back to the groups has reiterated my belief in myself and the Andy's Man Club process. Andy's Man Club has no referral requirements, there are no registrations, it's totally confidential. You can come once or you can come for life.

"You set the rules for your own journey. As long as your 18+, male and treat everyone with respect, there is a place for you."