Luke Ambler is from Halifax in UK. His Dad’s a passionate Rugby man who played for Bradford Northern as a kid and encouraged Luke to start playing Rugby. Luke took to it like a duck to water and slowly progressed up the ranks, playing for Salford, he was bought by Ireland, and played for Leeds and Halifax. Rugby became his outlet.
In childhood Luke’s parents broke up. He lived with his brother and Dad, which was quite unheard of at the time, and started comfort eating. He was bullied, so went to school with a bit of a mask on … a hypothetical mask of a cheeky lad. Luke tried to be brave, he knew that men didn’t cry…. but inside Luke was in turmoil. His mum had a car crash which left her with anxiety, depression and NEAD – Non Epileptic Attack Disorder where she could fall over at any time without warning. Her bubbly character seemed to have been ripped out with this condition. So all of this growing up was difficult but it was the Rugby that helped Luke.
Looking back, Luke realised through teamwork and scoring tries, he felt significant and connected. When you become part of a team you have a structure and rules to live by. You may be told what to eat or drink, your body is monitored and it’s good to have that structure in your life. It gives you self-identity.
Everyone is different and finding your “thing” that helps you offload is important – whether it be sport, writing, drawing or playing an instrument.
Although Luke seemed to progress seamlessly in Rugby, he felt he had to work harder than everyone else, he would go running on Christmas morning or New Years Eve night. Luke had ups and downs throughout his career where injury and not being selected all played their part. Emotional wellbeing and mental health are still a taboo topic on the sports field. There is a lot being done to break this down through a variety of organisations but people still don’t understand the impact of injuries, defeats or poor performance and what affect this has on players.
In sport, Luke feels performance is magnified by the crowd. With ten thousand people watching your every move and a team that is depending on you…. yes it can be difficult. Fans often don’t look at the players perspective, they could have had a really bad few days at home or may have lost a loved one. They just see these people classed as super hero’s who should be able to perform at the highest level every week. This is always a curse as everyone is human at the end of the day.
When Luke was bought by Leeds he had a bit of a dark patch. His behaviour was magnified as the club had the best image of any club around and they all had certain roles they had to do. He was pushing people away and had broken up with his partner. Luke thought he had failed, he blew one night, got into trouble and found himself sat in a police cell. So he asked himself, “Is this it for me?”. He had kept asking himself “Why me?”, and every time he asked this, more bad things happening. So he came up with this two-word question…. “What’s next?”
So now in Luke’s life, no matter how big or small the problem, Luke asks “What’s next?” – “What can I do next to make this as positive as possible? I can’t change what has happened in the past but I can change what is to come”.
Luke realised that his passion had always been people and helping people be the best versions of themselves, that is what had transcended through all of his life events. Luke started working with young people, businesses and organisations, telling people about his journey. He now does a lot of public speaking at schools, businesses, universities and prisons and creates emotional wellbeing workshops.
But then on April 5th 2016, Luke’s brother in law took his own life. Only two days before, Andrew was at Luke’s house having a bit of a laugh and a joke, talking about buying a house and how they were going to travel to Thailand. Sunday morning Andy went to play football with his old team, took his daughter to play gym in the afternoon and they had dinner together in the evening. Monday morning Andy didn’t go to work but bought a rope and was found dead on Tuesday morning. There was no sign, no signal, no warning. Luke remembers that phone call like it was yesterday – after everything Luke had been through it was the greatest pain he had ever experienced.
Luke put on a brave face at the time because that is what you do. Luke had to pick the car up from where Andy had left it, tell Andy’s best friend and the mother of his child, and other family members. It felt like Luke was picking up the pieces. Four days later whilst driving Luke felt angry and upset … he went through many emotions. He knew he couldn’t bring Andrew back. He thought about those two words “What’s next?”. It’s not about changing the past but its about changing the future. Luke wanted to create something in Andy’s name so Luke created Andy’s man Club. His way of trying to get men to talk and tackle mental health.
Luke made a plan, put a post out and started up the first group. Nine men turned up the first week, then fifty men turned up the second. He then developed the “Its OK to talk” campaign which has created huge momentum.
The biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is suicide. The majority of people that have suicidal thought’s are male but they are the least likely to talk about it and certainly the least likely to get help.
Somehow it is not acceptable for men to talk about their feelings, this has been highlighted by the thousands of men Luke have dealt with in the last eight months. There seems to be three reasons why men don’t talk:
- Burden – they don’t want to burden others as they think everyone has their own problems
- Embarrassment – living in a culture of WhatsApp groups and Facebook messages, where you don’t want to feel embarrassed
- Weakness – historically men have been the strong ones who go out to work and bring food to the table. This has now changed but men’s emotions have not kept up
Luke is hoping that slowly but surely they will be able to change this. The Its OK to talk campaign is about breaking these barriers down.
Luke wants people who know about suicide to increase awareness. His clubs create peer to peer support – places to go to talk, where guys come together with a variety of problems. The clubs are increasing in number all around the UK and growing beyond belief. They are self-funded running on a lot of good will. No one gets paid as Luke wants every penny raised to go to the cause. Elaine (Andy’s mum) and Anita are both retired and help with the running. Luke runs his business a couple of days a week and uses the other days to keep this moving.
Luke took a selfie with the Its OK to talk logo and added the hard-hitting statistics about suicide being the biggest killer of men under 45. He put it on social media. By the end of the week it had gathered momentum. Everyone was taking selfies and posting it. Ricky Gervais had done one along with Lads Bible. After 4wks over 100 million people had done it and Luke’s campaign has now been categorised as the biggest mental health movement. This has been done in Andy’s legacy. From his death it is good to know that something positive has come out.
After the Its OK to talk campaign, Luke had hundreds of emails from men saying it had saved their lives and they had now reached out for help themselves. The point of all of this was never to save one life but to halve the suicide rate in 5 years because 7000 people a year take their life by suicide. Luke is fighting every day to do that.
For Luke, wellbeing is all about handling your own stress, anger, emotions and confidence. Being self aware and able to spot the triggers. Using escape to find the “thing” that helps you in times of anger or sadness, and also enjoying the time when you are happy. It’s about being well, waking up in the morning and being happy with yourself. It’s learning that bad times do come and bad times do go. It’s about learning to get through the bad times as quickly as possible and build resilience. No matter what you are going through, there is a positive way out.
Luke is passionate about people and he loves life. His sense of purpose is part of his resilience, enabling him to cope with adversity.
For Luke Purpose is everything.
You can contact Luke at www.lukeambler.co.uk
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