The Barstool Brothers :: Tackling Men’s Mental Health
In Front of And Behind The Bar
By Brad Kelly
When Lachlan Stevens and Daniel Chin started the Barstool Brothers in 2019 to create connection and community among the men they met working in hospitality, little did they know it would evolve into tackling men’s mental health behind – as well as – in front of the bar.
Nor did they realise the pub counsellor would be born!
We sat down with Daniel Chin and pub counsellor [yep!] Brad Romanisyzn to discuss the rise and rise of The Barstool Brothers.
Daniel Chin – or Chinny as he’s affectionately known in the Barstool Brothers community – is a passionate advocate for men’s mental health and he has good reason to be. But more on that later…..
“Barstool Brothers was founded with the idea of creating a space for men to have better conversations about their mental health. We found that it wasn’t so much that men weren’t willing to talk, but they’d be worried about how they would be perceived,” Daniel says.
That ideal space turned out to be His Boy Elroy, with its craft beer, burgers and big-screen sports and in 2019, Chinny and His Boy owner Lachlan Stevens, hosted the first monthly free burger and fries night.
“I think we had 35 that first month which then doubled to 70 in the second and we found that it was such a positive thing for the men, and the women in the lives of those men that we kept going,” he says.
“Barstool Brothers is a judgement-free zone where men can have those vulnerable chats with each other.”
Daniel says the Covid lockdowns really highlighted the need for greater community and connection among men.
“At one point, we fielded four crisis calls from men in two weeks and we knew that we were onto something important with Barstool Brothers,” he says.
Since then, Daniel and Lachlan have created two arms of Barstool Brothers – a community connection program for men to have burgers and fries; morning walks; fitness classes, boxing and other social activities; and an education arm that focuses on helping hospitality venue operators better accommodate the mental health needs of their patrons.
“We didn’t just want to roll out another program. Instead, we thought the best way to help our communities is to train people in hospitality and the venues in a mental health awareness and communication course,” Daniel explains.
“It’s important that bar staff can pick up on the signs and symptoms of mental health.”
In July 2023, Barstool Brothers will roll out a 12-month pilot training program they hope will reach 30,000 hospitality workers across NSW.
But what about hospitality staff themselves?
Enter Brad Romanisyzn from Unlocking You Counselling and committee member of Barstool Brothers, who discovered in his own work the need to support those who worked behind the bar.
“I’d been involved in Barstool Brothers and a few of the venue operators had noticed a spike in poor mental health among their staff. I was approached to do something and after some consultation, we decided to set up a counselling room in the Illawarra Hotel that caters largely, but not exclusively, to hospitality staff in the Illawarra,” explained Brad.
The following weekend, the Barstool Brothers community pitched in to paint and furnish an old room at the Illawarra.
The pub counsellor was born.
“The pub counselling really dovetailed nicely with the work of the Barstool Brothers who are focused on educating hospitality staff, but bar staff like anyone else, face the ups and downs of life,” Brad says.
The spike convinced Brad to create an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to help hospitality staff reach out with greater ease, a move that has been supported by venue operators.
“The thing about the Barstool Brothers is that it has kicked off a whole conversation across the hospitality industry about men’s mental health – whether you are in front of the bar or behind it,” Brad says.
Brad says that he hopes the Barstool Brothers can normalise conversations around mental health.
“It’s ok to say that things are not going well at home or with my relationship; that I am struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Men shouldn’t have to do it alone,” he says.
Daniel puts the success of the Barstool Brothers down to the relaxed feel and organic nature of the community.
“One of the biggest problems among men is social anxiety. If you’re feeling isolated, it can be pretty daunting walking into another group of men. So, this afternoon Brad and I are meeting a few first-timers at the Illawarra Hotel for a pre-burger meet and greet and we will walk up with them,” he says.
“It feels like you’re already part of the group before you walk into a bigger group. And that’s been really successful.”
He also stresses that while the group makes it easier to talk about mental health, not everyone who comes along is struggling. In fact, Daniel argues that recovering community and connection will go a long way in the fight for better mental health.
“It’s important to note that the Barstool Brothers are not just made up of people that are struggling with mental health. It’s people that might actually be doing quite well,” he says.
“But when I come down and be part of a community, which is something I feel is getting lost in today’s online world, these communities actually become quite important for people from all walks of life.”
“Look, I’ve been touched by multiples suicides in my life. Mates who felt there was no other way out – and I know it sounds a bit corny, but I’m just trying to make the world a bit of a better place,” Daniel says.
It’s not corny when it’s backed up by action.
And action that makes a difference, right?
Nice one, guys.