Sports

How One Rugby Player Is Using Selfies To Bring Awareness To Men’s Mental Health

by Kate Ryan

August 30, 2016
Image via Twitter

It’s a social media fact: some trending Twitter hashtags are better than others. There are only so many bad jokes you can make about #WeinerGate and too few characters to truly honor #NationalToastedMarshmallowDay.

Recently, one hashtag went viral that could actually improve men’s lives. Over the past month, men from around the world have been sharing selfies featuring the “okay” hand sign, causing the hashtag #ItsOkayToTalk to gain traction. Irish rugby player Luke Ambler started the campaign in an effort to normalize the men’s mental health discussion after his brother-in-law took his own life back in April of this year. The social media movement has since picked up prominent supporters ranging from Matthew Lewis to Ricky Gervais.

Opening up the discussion about mental health is more important than ever now that suicide is the fifteenth leading cause of death in the world—that’s more than 800,000 people committing suicide every year. In the US alone, nearly 43,000 people die by suicide annually with white men accounting for 70 percent of that number in 2014, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports.

Devastated by his brother-in-law’s death, Ambler created the Facebook group Andy’s Man Club as a place for men to feel supported expressing their fears and feelings relating to mental health. 

Women got in on the action as well and posted selfies to social media to show their support.

In an interview with The Independent, Ambler said of the response he’s received so far,

“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… The world is spreading compassion—get involved in the mental health movement.”

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or if you know someone who might be struggling, try using Facebook’s new suicide prevention tool to help them out.

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