A mental health story where cuts are a good thing!

How can mental health benefit from a cut, any cut, let alone lots of them?!

A group of barbers is providing a way by encouraging clients to talk about themselves and let out some of the stresses and strains that build up in life.

We’re all busy, or pretend to be, so we rarely have time to chat in a neutral setting where judgements aren’t handed out. The barbers – or hairdressers – is one of the few places where that can happen. Often derided for their ‘Going anywhere nice this summer’ depth of chat, barbers are in a rare position to be that escape valve.

And Torquay tonsorial (sorry!) Tom Chapman @HeresTommy is championing a scheme where barbers can spot signs of depression and mental health issues and maybe direct people to helpful organisations or just be comfortable talking about personal themes. It’s not turning them into inquisitors latching onto any comment and squeezing pscyho-analytical meaning from it but more being a listening post.



Tom, who runs Tom Chapman Hair Design,  founded the Lions Barber Collective, a charity dedicated to helping barbers provide that listening post as well as the sharp styling. (http://www.thelionsbarbercollective.com) I wrote about him in this week’s Sunday Express (http://bit.ly/2c3TouC and printed below) and hope his cause gets nationwide appeal. Barbers will get training in how to talk to and engage with clients and to not to razor a furrow in someone’s beautiful hair with shock if they say ‘I’m a bit depressed at the moment mate’.

We all need space to accept that our lives are not Facebook and Instagram perfect and maybe doing it while looking in the barber’s mirror will provide perfect self-reflection. Tom has found that more clients are ‘opening up’ to him since they found out he was happy to talk. He has also found existing clients who said just chatting to him while they were going through difficult times provide a huge relief to their stress.

You could hardly find a more manly arena for mental health stigma shaking: Barbers are now a world of bulging forearms, tattoos and Viking bushy beards so it sets a fantastic example about the need for men to talk.

Tom has big plans to promote the scheme –  NHS England are listening and becoming involved – so that ‘listening’ barbers can declare themselves with an approved sticker in the window.

It deserves to be a big success and it will  help many people keep on an even keel and keep the demons at bay. You can still talk about what you did on your holidays and debate if Jose or Pep is the better football manager but you can talk about anything

The only downside I can see is that men may be having more haircuts than normal as they get used to visiting a barbers for a chat and a snip.




FROM THE SUNDAY EXPRESS – September 9, 2016


Barbers are being encouraged to act as trained listeners to help clients deal with depression and mental health issues.

The move comes as a study reveals that 53% of men are more comfortable talking to their barbers than their doctors about private issues.

They establish trust by visiting the same snipper over the years while they are forced to see different doctors when visiting their GP surgery, it added.

“Listening and talking is something we do naturally as barbers and hairdressers,” says Tom Chapman, an award-winning barber. “We don’t want to turn barbers into counsellers but we want to provide that safe place where guys can open up and talk.

“The family doctor relationship is slowly dying which means men are likely hiding from issues that they should be comfortably discussing with their doctors, such as depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.

“But they do build up huge levels of trust with a barber. It’s not often you get chance to sit down and chat one to one in this busy world so it is an ideal opportunity to talk.”

Tom, who runs a barbers in Torquay, Devon, got training in counselling techniques after a 27-year-old friend took his own life.

“It affected me and thought if only he could have talked to me or any of the 100s of people at his funeral maybe it would have helped,” adds Tom, who formed the Lions Barber Collective charity to provide mental health awareness courses for barbers.

“We see clients more regularly than they see their GPs and, with a bit of training, we will be able to teach guys to recognise the signs and direct them to where they can get more help. It’s not about questioning clients; it’s about making them feel free to talk as often just talking about something can make a difference.

“More people have been opening up to me since I started the campaign and some long-standing clients have revealed that just chatting to me during difficult times had helped them.”

Tom has joined forces with grooming brand Bluebeards Revenge (http://www.bluebeards-revenge.co.uk) which commissioned the survey to coincide with yesterday’s World Suicide Prevention Day, to raise awareness of men’s mental health.

It’s managing director David Hildrew, a former Royal Marine Commando, says: ““It’s very encouraging to see that barbers all over Britain are presenting a suitable pillar for men to lean on. As an ex-serviceman, I take male depression very seriously. It’s an illness that many military men suffer with in silence. The Lions Barber Collective charity is the perfect way to break down the barriers that men tend to build themselves and together we hope to help educate barbers around the world and encourage men to man up and talk about their problems.”