A Londonderry cafe gives men a place to talk about mental health

Theodore Campbell

Thomas Campbell is a recovering alcoholic who switched from drinking two bottles of vodka per day to coffee and chit-chatting with other men in a Londonderry cafe about his feelings.

He "prays it becomes normalized in other city centers," despite the fact that some people may find it strange.

Every Thursday, the public is barred from Claude's Cafe on Shipquay Street in Derry so that men can gather there and discuss their lives.

Some people just want to sit and talk informally. A few men discuss their favorite new TV shows or their favorite fishing spots.

The North West Today on BBC Radio Foyle quotes Thomas as saying, "I've come through a lot, but it's a journey and a work in progress.".

Demons appeared to me from behind walls. I had to get help, and now that I'm here over a cappuccino, I'll be sharing my experience. ".

When it spiraled out of control, Thomas claims he started drinking too much on the weekends. In 2020, he was accepted into the Northlands Centre in Derry, which provides assistance to those who struggle with addiction.

Declan Moore making coffee
To provide a place for men to talk, Declan Moore closes his cafe once a week.

After leaving Northlands, he came up with the idea for these drop-in sessions at Claude's Cafe, which has proven to be popular with many locals.

"We can discuss anything, and nobody will judge you. It's good to see people realizing how important speaking out is.

"I was at Northlands when Covid hit, so my time there was shortened. I wound up spending a few months living on the streets and in a B&B.

"My environment had to change. Without even realizing it, these men are bringing that into being. Now that I've experienced feeling once more, I can describe it.

"Drink suppressed my emotions for a very long time, but now that I'm talking and telling my story, I feel better.

"My life has improved greatly. I have a spouse, kids, a car, and most importantly, this cafe.

"I never imagined that I would be here a few years ago. I tell every man to talk to somebody, even if it's a stranger; what's not to be happy about? ".

In 2008, Gerry Mullan, a resident of Ardmore, a small town outside of Derry, was injured in a car accident that changed the course of his life.

He claims, "Every day is a recovery day for me.".

"No one experiences what I did and anticipates leading a normal life.

Gerry Mullan
Gerry Mullan is advising other men to feel at ease talking openly.

"I feel normal and more confident because of these cafe drop-in sessions. ".

The weekly gatherings were mentioned to Gerry by his social worker.

"I never expressed my emotions, especially to my family and close friends. Doing that is difficult. I find it easier to talk to strangers, which is beneficial.

"Don't be a man of timidity. I now go fishing with some of these men because this has broadened my horizons.

"I'm incredibly grateful to be here. To be able to talk to you and tell you my story makes me feel incredibly fortunate. ".

Declan Moore
The sessions, according to Declan Moore, should help lessen the stigma surrounding men's mental health.

Declan Moore, the proprietor of Claude's Cafe, continues to brew coffee and interact with the men. Below the chat, music is playing.

In order to make it feel as natural as possible, he says, "We close the cafe for a few hours.

There is no referral network. There is no judgment and it's informal.

"I wish every city center had a similar program. The stigma associated with mental health might be lessened as a result.

"I observe men smiling as they leave. Maybe a year ago, they weren't grinning. For them and society as a whole, that can only be positive. ".

Help is available at for details and advice on any problems brought up in this tale. action line for the BBC.

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