The beard club brotherhood is tackling mental health issues

The Bearded 
Rebellion Beard Club (BRBC) is a brotherhood who have come together to help those struggling with their mental health.

By Conor McClean
Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 12:50 pm
Members of the Bearded Rebellion NI chapter
Members of the Bearded Rebellion NI chapter

The international beard club prides itself on family, charity, loyalty and respect. The brotherhood was established in California, in 2018, by an American veteran named Ramey the Red.

BRBC has built a worldwide support network with beard clubs growing throughout Europe, the UK and Ireland (known as chapters).

Martin Gallagher is the captain of BRBC NI. He is an outdoor pursuits instructor as well as a support worker for children and adults.

Sign up to our daily Derry Journal Today newsletter

Members of Bearded Rebellion at 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 Bearded Rebellion logo

Derek 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 County Down. It is NI’s highest peak at 850 metres high, and located within the mountains of Mourne.

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 £100s 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. Captain Martin Gallagher has organised events with multiple charities and groups throughout the north.

“The week after we did the Slieve Donard climb, I was up the week after helping raise awareness for an Irish speaking school from where I live in Fermanagh,” said Martin.

“I was also doing it to help raise awareness for one of our other brothers in the club who has a younger brother that has a thing called Joubert syndrome.

“To raise more awareness we did the Belfast marathon. At the moment I’m doing a thing for young kids versus cancer. We do 50 push-ups a day for 50 days. Over the month of June I am doing a 90k walk for Sands, which is a stillbirth charity that is close to me. So we do things individually as well, but we also do it as a club if you know what I mean.”

The BRBC NI chapter has seen its numbers grow since its formation in 2021.
The club began with one member and has now grown to 20 in just a short period of time. President Derek says the club sets out to “help the average Joe” on the street.

“At the moment we’ve good support here in Derry-Londonderry. What we are trying to do now is get people from around Coleraine, Portrush, Portstewart and Strabane,” said Derek.

“Ideally what we want is small units across these areas, and that are all tied in everywhere. It allows the full community to get on board where they can help us by donating, especially for smaller charities, or individuals. Along the way now, we’ve met quite a lot of individuals with their own personal and family needs.

“They are obviously not as big as charities, they don’t have that support, or they just don’t know where to go.

“They can come to people like us, whether their kids just need a day out, or if they want to be part of something, they can come to us.

“In the group itself we have office workers, outdoor pursuit instructors and guys from numerous different jobs.

“It’s really about helping the average Joe on the street that has nowhere else to go, and that’s our main focus; to open the door for guys that can come in and be part of something bigger by being part of a group, or for that individual that doesn’t know where to go.”

Lieutenant Connor Donnelly believes poor mental health amongst men stems from a lack of funding for mental health services.

He says that men can be “just as weak as anybody else,” when it comes to mental health and sharing their troubles or trauma.

“I personally have gotten so much out of the club,” said Connor.

“I just want to use the club that I’ve benefited from to give back to everybody else as well. So we’re helping each other, but we’re hoping to help everybody possible that we can, in and around the community.

“I know myself having gone through periods of counselling, they will offer you five or six weeks of counselling, and that’s all they can offer you, and just as you’re starting to get better, unfortunately, you can no longer be part of the programme; so you go back to square one.

“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. 
BRBC is awareness to help individuals, awareness for the entire community on a whole and to help raise support, guidance and funding.

“So anything that we can do to give back because we’ve gained so much as well. So it’s a give and take for the club,” he concluded.