Mental health ‘close to hearts’ of Dead Rabbit owners

The owners of NYC bar The Dead Rabbit have chosen to support mental health charity Aware NI. Credit: The Dead Rabbit

Two Belfast men who own The Dead Rabbit bar in New York City have donated $10,000 to a charity helping those in Northern Ireland living with depression.

Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry’s bar has already picked up numerous ‘World’s Best’ awards and they have now launched a new book - a guide to Ireland’s top pubs and distilleries billed as the ultimate travel guide for whiskey enthusiasts, pub lovers, and Hibernophiles.

But their return home for the book launch also provided the opportunity to present a cheque to Aware NI and help support a cause close to the pair’s hearts.

Having grown up in Ardoyne in north Belfast, where rates of depression and suicide are very high, they were very aware of how mental health problems, if left untreated, can devastate communities.

Jack, who has been frank about his personal struggles with mental health, explained how he had realised he had a problem when everything seemed to be going right and yet he still felt “empty”.

“We had just won World’s Best Bar, I was recognised as the World’s Best Bartender, I had a lovely looking girlfriend at the time, I had money in the bank - I had everything,” he said.

“I should have been happy.

“But I realised I wasn’t. I was completely unhappy, I just felt empty. And then I started drinking a lot, and getting medication, and it just spiralled out of control.”

Jack McGarry, originally from north Belfast, is one of The Dead Rabbit's owners. Credit: UTV

After hitting rock-bottom in March 2016 and ending up in hospital for a week, Jack knew he had to take control and get help.

“I was very fortunate because I had the likes of Sean and my family who supported me in those initial difficult steps and I had the resources to get better,” he said.

“But a lot of people aren’t that fortunate.

“One of the big things we wanted to do with the donation and talking about it is to help people come forward and then also to help them in terms of getting the resources that they need and Aware NI’s obviously a big part of that.”

We dedicated our first Dead Rabbit book to the kids in north Belfast whose worlds had been rocked by depression and suicide and we’re proud to continue to support this important cause.

– SEAN MULDOON

Sean Muldoon added: “Jack has been very candid about sharing his story, helping to empower others to get support, and the whole team at The Dead Rabbit are passionate about driving forward change around mental health.

“In addition to the donation that we have made to Aware, we hope sharing this story will help to break down the stigma around mental health and encourage others to seek help when they need it.”

The donation includes The Dead Rabbit’s royalties from all sales of The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, produced at The Dublin Liberties Distillery.

“Northern Ireland, Ireland, Belfast – they’ve all been very good to us,” Sean said.

“They’re big supporters of us, they’re our number one fanbase and we love the support we get from them – it makes us feel connected to Ireland all the time.

“For us, it was very important to give back, because we’ve been given a lot ourselves support-wise.”

The Dead Rabbit co-owner Sean Muldoon, also originally from north Belfast. Credit: UTV

He added: “We’ve been successful since we went to New York, but we’re still very, very connected to our roots and very connected to Belfast particularly.

“We’re very proud that we’re able to do something like this. It means a lot to both of us.”

Karen Collins, Chief Executive of AWARE, said the charity was “delighted to receive this immensely generous donation from The Dead Rabbit”.

She added: “The money donated will enable to us to offer our support groups and wellbeing programmes to more people in Northern Ireland, which aim to promote positive mental health and help recovery from depression.”

Talking is all well and good, but it only takes you so far - you have to have the resources, the therapy sessions, the correct diagnosis.

– JACK MCGARRY

Sean and Jack’s book, authored together with Irish whiskey expert Tim Herlihy, took the trio on two month-long whirlwind tours of the island of Ireland in a VW camper driven by Jack’s dad.

They logged over 4,000 miles, visited 111 pubs and every single working whiskey distillery.

The resulting book - From Barley to Blarney, a Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland – documents brief histories and profiles of all 22 distilleries and 50 of the pubs, from popular spots to hidden gems.

Among the local spots making the cut are Belfast bars like The Duke Of York and Kelly’s Cellars, The Old Bushmills Distillery, Johnny Joe McCollum’s in Cushendall, and Frank Owen’s in Limavady.

The hardbound book with extensive photography chronicles the trio’s fact-finding trips, documents attractions to visit, and features recipes for original Irish whiskey cocktails.

From Barley to Blarney, a Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland. Credit: The Dead Rabbit

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Last updated Tue 14 May 2019

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