The NI bearded men’s club helping raise awareness of mental health issues

We find out more about the Bearded Rebellion Beard Club NI - a group providing peer-to-peer support and helping out their local communities and charities

By Helen McGurk
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 4:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 4:29 pm
Some of the members of the Bearded Rebellion NI chapter
Some of the members of the Bearded Rebellion NI chapter

Co Fermanagh man Martin Gallagher is an outdoor pursuits instructor as well as a support worker for children and adults.

The 45-year-old from Maguiresbridge is also the captain of Bearded Rebellion Beard Club NI (BRBC NI, a group of men who have come together to help those struggling with their mental health.

The so-called brotherhood was established in California, in 2018, by an American veteran named Ramey the Red. It has built a worldwide support network with beard clubs growing throughout Europe, the UK and Ireland (known as chapters), priding itself on family, charity, loyalty and respect.

Members of the Bearded Rebellion NI chapter at the summit of Slieve Donard

“The club was initially set up as a charity,” said Martin.

“So you’re going out and helping different charities in your local area, and for us, it’s across the whole of Northern Ireland. Our main core is focusing on mental health awareness. We want to show support by helping out and just being there for people. You can be part of something and not have to sit at home on your own.”

The ‘big bearded family’ aims to improve communities by organising events and contributing to different charities by supporting individuals’ needs.

President of BRBC NI, Derek Lishman is a support worker and advocate for men’s mental health.

The 38-year-old Londonderry man works with people struggling with alcohol and addiction problems, and helps those who are homeless.

“We are coming up now to our first year anniversary,” he said.

“There are at least 40 chapters in America alone, with chapters here in England, Scotland and Wales. The group has opened doors for guys, and provided a platform for them to come and speak to each other about issues that they are having.

“We formed ourselves in 2021 and one of our first endeavours was to help out one of our brothers who lives in Kentucky. There was a big tornado there last year.

“We got together and sold merch, we rallied around and saved up money. We were able to help donate it to those over there who lost their property and work. Anybody here that’s struggling themselves or needs somewhere to go, if they want to get out and meet people, take part in activities for men, that’s all there for them. Together as a group we can provide for them and give them the confidence to come in and look around their areas to see where the support is needed.”

The Bearded Rebellion NI chapter has worked with several charities such as the Simon Community homeless shelter. As part of a worldwide incentive to support those who are vulnerable, BRBC as a whole organised a food-drive by donating over 24,000 items such as food and toiletries. The NI chapter donated around 800 items to those struggling with life’s basic necessities.

In April of this year, the group climbed Slieve Donard in Co Down.

BRBC lieutenant Connor Donnelly, has struggled with mental health issues for most of his life. Through the support offered by the group, Connor’s mental health has improved greatly.

“I’ve made more friends in the last six months than I’ve done in the last 15 years, just through this club,” said Connor.

“We did the Slieve Donard climb with the Community Rescue Service (CRS) and raised a good few hundred pounds for them. It was a great chance to meet people who are working in the CRS. I personally spoke to a lot of them and got to learn more about the charity we were working with.

“Bearded Rebellion is about supporting each other as a club internally, but also supporting other people in the community as well. I joined the club at Christmas time and have been involved ever since. I have struggled with mental health for 15 years, and it’s been a big support for me. I’ve had ups and downs myself over the past six months, and having these guys to fall back on has been great. Whether it’s going out for a coffee, or going for a night out with the fellas, you know, doing the charity work, getting days out and doing something different. It’s a lot better than sitting in the house watching TV. You’re out in the community and meeting other people and meeting brothers.”

Members of BRBC commit to their own charitable work as individuals whilst representing the NI chapter.

The BRBC NI chapter has seen its numbers grow since its formation in 2021 and now has 22 members. 
Connor believes poor mental health amongst men stems from a lack of funding for mental health services.

“I personally have gotten so much out of the club. We want to help as many mental health charities, because it’s the thing that’s close to my heart, and so many of our group as well, and the major thing is funding, but it’s also awareness. “There’s so many people who aren’t even aware that they’re struggling with an issue, you know, that age old thing of ‘Man up, men are supposed to be hard,’ Men can be just as weak as anybody else.”

Follow BRBC NI on instagram brbc-ni.chapter and on Facebook, Bearded Rebellion NI