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Lions Barber Collective Wants to Prevent Suicide by Talking to Men About Their Mental Health

Imagine the next time you go in for a haircut, your barber asks you about your mental health and expects an honest answer. A group of barbers – known as the Lions Barber Collective – hopes to prevent suicide by making this idea a reality and talking to their patrons about mental health.

“I strongly believe that by talking about these subjects more openly we will work towards destroying the stigma around suicide and mental health,” Tom Chapman, the group’s founder, said. “The barbershop is a great place for this because we often have a great relationship with our clientele and we are in a position of trust and intimacy.”

According to the World Health Organization, men may find it harder to be diagnosed with depression and are less likely to seek help for issues relating to mental health. In the U.S., men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women.

The idea for the Collective came in 2015, from a comment on Facebook. Chapman was trying to put together a look book that would feature the work of barbers from the U.K. and Ireland, with some of the proceeds being donated to charity. He posted in the New World Barbers Facebook group asking for charity recommendations, when one member suggested donating the money to a suicide prevention group – a cause that hit close to home for Chapman.

“I had lost a friend to suicide only a year previous, and I was totally unaware of any organizations that existed,” Chapman told The Mighty. “I also had no idea that he was feeling that way and I’d only seen him days before. This spurred me on and spawned a lot more ideas.”

Since founding the Collective, Chapman has received suicide intervention training and helped other barbers train in mental health first aid. “I feel there is a fear from men that showing mental illness or sharing emotion and feelings can be seen as weak; however, I think most of us would be surprised at the reaction if we did open up more,” Chapman said. “Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being.”

The Collective is also developing its own mental health awareness and suicide intervention training program called BarberTalk. The day-long course will help barbers recognize the signs of different mental health issues as well as teach them how to talk about mental health issues and the art of non-judgmental, active listening. Barbers will also learn about local and national organizations to which they can refer clients who need additional help.

The Collective currently includes barbers from the U.K., Ireland and Holland, but is looking to expand to more countries around the world, including the U.S. Two new groups will be announced on September 10, the one year anniversary of the Lions Barber Collective and World Suicide Prevention Day.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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