It started as a support group for men based in one of Wollongong's busiest bars and has become a vital lifeline during the Greater Sydney lockdown now in its fourth week.
- The Barstool Brothers mental health support group has been delivering free burgers each night to men in need
- Former NRL player Dan Hunt will lead a Zoom meeting with the support group this week to offer mental health advice
- Wollongong bar owner Lachlan Stevens says uncertainty and having to adapt to ongoing changes is draining for small businesses
The Barstool Brothers has grown to a network of nearly 1,000 men and the founder of the group said the need for the organisation has never been greater.
"We noticed an increase in activity on our Facebook page in the form of blokes telling their story, putting their hands up and saying they're struggling during this time," Lachlan Stevens said.
"That's a call to action for ourselves to go and lend a helping hand."
Mr Stevens is the owner of the bar His Boy Elroy and has been delivering free burgers each night and all day on Fridays to men who have reached out for help.
He said the deliveries were providing a crucial moment of social connection.
"We go to their homes, socially distance, deliver a burger and say g'day," Mr Stevens said.
"It hits close to home, people are struggling and it's also encouraging to see that what we're doing — albeit a small act — in social connection has been received well and is meaningful in their day.
"These guys are looking forward to us coming out and to have that kind of impact in someone's life is so incredibly important to us and the leaders within the Barstool Brothers community."
'We don't want people to bottle it up'
The Facebook page has become a safe space for men to feel comfortable speaking out about their troubles.
Lachlan Stevens said it was pleasing to see a key message around mental health being put into practice.
"We've had people post on that page about their mental health struggles and they're feeling lonely and isolated and the subsequent depression and anxiety that comes with that isolation.
"Barstool Brothers is a great medium where people can express their feelings.
"We don't want people to bottle it up, so we try and identify those most at risk, provide an ear to listen to and make that social connection with them during this time."