More than 30 men attended a new mental health support group in the Holme Valley with more aiming to come to the next one.

Holmfirth Man’s Club was set up by former cricketer and builder Ritchie Howarth who has battled crippling mental illness over the last seven years.

He hardly set foot outside his Holmbridge home during that time but has made a remarkable recovery in recent months and set up the club to help other men going through similar struggles.

The first club was held on May 2 with the next one on Tuesday, June 6 at 7pm – Ritchie’s 56th birthday.

It meets on the first Tuesday of every month from 7pm to 9pm at Ribbles Café on Hollowgate in the centre of Holmfirth. Men are encouraged to just turn up on the night.

Ritchie said: “More than 30 men bravely stepped through the door at the first one which made it an absolute success. It was supposed to finish at 9pm but overran by an hour as every one of them was keen to talk about his experiences.

“It was very powerful and humbling. They were all so brave to talk and it was sad too as some of the stories were harsh from men who had been struggling for years. That’s why the club is so badly needed.”

Holmfirth Tech has been in contact with the club to offer its specialist music, craft and dance rooms.

Ritchie said: “Several of the men who came to the first session are musicians and there has already been talk of a few of them possibly forming a band.”

Two auctions are being held to raise money for Holmfirth Man’s Club. One will be on Saturday, July 1, at the Pickled Pheasant gastro pub on Woodhead Road in Holmbridge and another will be held at Lu’s Place in Meltham.

Businesses in the Holme Valley have rallied round with great things to auction such as vouchers, bottles of champagne and luxury cushions.

Ritchie said: “The items for the auction are just starting to come in and we’ve been promised a lot more. I can’t thank the businesses enough for the way they’ve rallied around this and supported us.

“It’s all exciting stuff. At the moment we are meeting once a month but if it’s really successful we’ll look to meet more often. The power of it will be in men sharing what they’re going through and realise they’re not the only ones suffering with their mental health.

“Together we will talk and together we will be stronger. I came close to taking my own life three times and if this club saves just one life then it will be more than worth it.”

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.