‘The support of Tom and the Lions has saved my life’: Meet the barber helping men to open up about their mental health

The barber founded the charity The Lions Barber Collective, with the aim of creating a non-judgmental safe space where men could feel comfortable to talk openly about their mental health

Talking openly about mental health can often be a difficult experience, so creating a safe space where men can open up about how they’re feeling was something Torquay-based barber, Tom Chapman, decided to do.

After the death of his friend Alex in 2015, the barber founded the charity The Lions Barber Collective, with the aim of creating a non-clinical and non-judgmental safe space where men could feel comfortable to talk openly about their mental health, and be signposted to places where they could seek support and information.

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Through his profession, Mr Chapman, 37, recognised that barbers and those in the haircare industry are often trusted confidants, and can offer a friendly ear to their customers, something which he decided to integrate into the charity’s initiative.

Tom Chapman recognised that barbers industry are often trusted confidants (Photo: Team Peter Stigter)

The barber collaborated with experts to develop the clinically-backed, BarberTalk training programme, which allows hair professionals to support their clients and communities.

The BarberTalk training series aims to equip hair professionals with the skills they need to be able to recognise signs of poor mental health in their clients, alongside ways of facilitating conversation, listening with empathy and helping to signpost their customers to places where they can get further support.

The charity has now trained over 2,500 barbers around the UK and beyond to further support their customers through the BarberTalk programme.

Now, as barbers and hairdressers begin to reopen across the UK, barbers across the nation are launching the #OurDoorIsOpen campaign, which aims to ensure those whose mental health has been impacted by the Covid pandemic and lockdown restrictions get the support they need.

The barber founded the charity The Lions Barber Collective, with the aim of creating a non-judgmental safe space where men could feel comfortable to talk openly about their mental health (Photo: Tom Chapman)

‘Listen and support those who are still struggling’

The #OurDoorIsOpen campaign is the latest initiative from The Lions Barber Collective as barbers begin to reopen across the UK, and comes in response to a widespread decline in mental health during the ongoing Covid pandemic.

The initiative is encouraging barbers across the nation to create safe places for men to open up and offload, alongside providing training which will enable barbers to listen to their customers, recognise the signs of someone struggling with mental health issues and then signpost them to appropriate support services.

Mr Chapman said that when barbers in England first reopened in July last year, after the first Covid lockdown, he was cutting his friend’s hair when he noticed he was visibly upset.

When the barber stopped and asked him if there was something he’d like to speak to him about, “his reply shocked me,” said Mr Chapman.

“He lived alone and this was the first human contact he had had in months,” the barber added.

Mr Chapman said that this made him even more determined “to ensure that others in his position have someone they can talk to” when barbers in England reopen on 12 April, alongside “giving barbers themselves access to tips and training they need to be able to listen and support those who are still struggling” across the UK.

‘The support of Tom and the Lions has saved my life’

Ben Higgins first found out about The Lions Barber Collective from Tom while having a beard trim, and said that “for some reason I opened up there and then.”

Mr Higgins, who suffers from PTSD, said that “it didn’t feel clinical, just two people talking,” but that Tom quickly went “from being my barber, to being my friend.”

He then decided he wanted to help others struggling with their mental health, and was “truly humbled” when he was later asked to be a trustee of the charity.

Mr Higgins said that being part of the charity “has been life changing” and that “the support of Tom and the Lions has saved my life.”

To find out more about the charity, the #OurDoorIsOpen campaign or to get involved, visit The Lions Barber Collective website.

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