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Whether you've seen the iconic logo on the back of someone's hoodie, tuned into the radio show or bumped into volunteers patrolling the streets... Bearded Fishermen has become a well known and much loved charity across Lincolnshire.
The cause aims to help people, families, and communities break the cycle of mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts. In the busy Gainsborough-based headquarters, you can feel the sense of comradery as the team gets to work. Made up entirely of volunteers, the charity offers 1:1 sessions with counsellors, and operates a call centre where they answer calls from people all over the country looking for help. In 2021 alone, the volunteers answered more than 6000 calls on their main support line.
Using a traffic light system, the calls are categorised in terms of urgency, and the team are well trained to deal with emergency calls. Operating 24 hours a day, the centre works closely with local emergency services to respond quickly in times of crisis.
The charity was established in 2019 after the two founders lost a friend to suicide. Rick Roberts and Mick Leyland met thanks to their shared love of fishing. When one of their fellow fishermen took his own life, the men knew something had to change.
Rick says: "We sat down on the bank at the fishing lake and in only ten minutes, we'd made a plan to set up a men's group. We'd both experienced our own mental health issues and we wanted to create a space where people could come when they felt like they had nowhere else to turn." Not long after, two young women turned up at one of the men's group meetings, saying they'd heard about the cause and were looking for a safe space. "So we welcomed them in, and the men's group became everyone's group!" Rick adds.
Since its inception, the charity has developed into a cherished force of good in city and town centres across Lincolnshire. Volunteers patrol streets in the late nights, keeping watch for anyone who needs their help.
According to Rick, they've become so well known that people wait in areas they're known to patrol, just to speak to them. He says: "We've been able to identify hotspots people may go to if they're in a crisis, which are usually quiet, secluded spaces, and public bridges. Local people and business owners also keep an eye out for us and will point us in the direction of anyone who may need us."
The charity supports the community in many ways, hosting wellbeing events, running a supportive and inclusive community radio station, and pulling together search parties to respond to alerts of missing people.
"We just want to help as many people as possible," says Rick. "If you need us, call us. We'll be here."
We've supported Bearded Fishermen through our Community Champions scheme.
If you're looking for support we have resources and information for mental health support that may be helpful.
You're not alone and help is available to you.
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