INDIANAPOLIS — Could clippers and conversation help save a life?
The organizers behind a regional initiative training barbers to listen and provide mental health support think so.
And, it makes sense since so many men feel comfortable in the barber chair. It's a time when talking comes naturally.
Lorenzo Lewis, the founder of 'The Confess Project,' believes a fresh fade and honest dialogue have the power to save lives.
"We're training barbers to spot signs of depression, anxiety, so they can be inclined to help their loved ones and their families that enter the barbershop, but also in their broader communities," Lewis said.
Lewis founded The Confess Project in 2016. The organization that helps marginalized men of color nurture their mental health and develop healthy coping skills to deal with pain.
"I always tell people about the story of me; my mother was incarcerated when I was born," Lewis said.
In the workshop, 'The Barber Coalition,' Lewis is using slides to share some sobering research.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for African American men, and only 6 percent of black men used mental health services in the last year.
Lewis is hoping these professionals take the challenge to seriously be mental health advocates for the men who stop in for a haircut.
"They are supported through a network, obviously through us, but also we really empower them with self-confidence and really empowering them with the motivation to be able to understand that they are becoming advocates, not experts," Lewis said. "And they'll be able to use this to really see people to have a level of success."
Indianapolis marks the 10th city to which Lewis has brought his Barber Coalition training partnering with barbershops and local mental health care providers across the south and the Midwest.
The barbers are trained to recognize warning signs and be the liaison between their clients and the mental health services they may need but might be hesitant to seek themselves.
"So, we realize that barbershops are a place that people really come to more than their schools and their institutions," Lewis said. 'So, we're really bringing on a ... building a platform in barbershops where people can feel comfortable, can be able to connect with individuals they know ... and also seeing how this can really create change."
The Confess Project and its Barber Coalition started in Little Rock, Arkansas. It has seen success, with more barbershop customers following through with counseling and therapy.
The barbers on board with the project must meet some requirements too:
- Barbers must be licensed
- Barbers must be willing to learn and receive training regarding a broad scope of mental health
- Barbers must live in the south of Midwest
- Barbers must have access to social media