The American Clubhouse on Waterloo Road means a lot of things to a lot of people.   
Who better to tell you about what this place means than a member who has been there since day one? Gary, 50, loved the idea of the Clubhouse when it was first suggested and eagerly followed its progress.   
He said: “I’ve been coming here for 18 years. The building has changed a lot with the addition of the conservatory, games room, and community garden. Now there are two other Clubhouses, The Observatory, and TwentyFourSEVEN in Hanley, along with loads of regular members. “I was going to a mental health centre before The American and I’ve tried group therapy, but there’s something special about this place.   
“There’s always lots going on and you can get involved in volunteering and other activities. I’m here five days a week and I volunteer; there’s always a choice to get involved and nothing is forced on you.” Gary remembers having problems since school and dropped out at the age of 13.   

He continued: “I like to learn and I teach myself new stuff all the time, it was the social aspect that used to stress me out. It took me a while before I went for help because I was scared and because of the huge stigma attached to mental health back then. It got to the point where I wasn’t living, just surviving.   
“In 1991 I went to a mental health centre, where I was told I had anxiety and depression. I still have anxiety at times but I no longer experience depression and a lot of that is down to Brighter Futures. I got my first job with Brighter Futures as part of the maintenance team working part-time.  
Gary continued: "Unfortunately, I had an unsuccessful operation on my leg in 2006 which prevented me from going back to work; instead I regularly volunteer whenever I can with Brighter Futures and North Staffs Mind.  
“I think staying active both physically and mentally is the key to good mental health.   
"In the mid to late 80s, I would never talk about my health and I would bottle it all up. I was feeling depressed and bored and wondering what to do. The American has changed my life and given me motivation. I also go on regular walks, even though sometimes it hurts my leg, and my motto is ‘get out and do stuff while you can’.  
“For anyone reading this who wants to change their lives: never think you can’t change things – I did.” 
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