MB caught up with Mick Phipps, aka The PodBarber, to find out about his new podcast, why he’s ‘championing the chat’ and a teaser about the upcoming podcasts guests. (Hint: they’re a brilliantly diverse bunch!)
Tell us about the new podcast?
The podcast launches on 4 May and it’s called The PodBarber. It’s been a lot of fun to put together, everyone who’s helped out are like my cartel of kindness. The concept is about bringing listeners a new format of reality entertainment all centred around getting men to speak up. In the podcast everyday people talk about the everyday issues and traumas which we all have to navigate. I hope to help them build stronger awareness inwardly and also speak to a wider audience about our mental health. We also focus on positive coping mechanisms – all of our guests are relatable, natural and they share what helps them in their own lives.
Why’s it called the PodBarber? (great pun btw!)
I feel like I’ve been cutting hair for so long and through that time I’ve talked and listened to so many of my customers/friends that I feel I can now boldly call myself the PodBarber!
You’ve got a phrase ‘champion the chat’ – in a nutshell, what does that mean to you?
Personally I think it’s a common misconception that men bottle things up. I really think men do speak up and I’ve been witness to this for well over 20 years as a barber. But it’s about time we ‘champion the chat’ and de-mystify this negative legacy. In the podcast I prove that men talk openly. I want to put out a message through courage and shared stories that there is hope for us and I want to show listeners that ‘conversation is the cure’.
Who are your guests?
My guests come from all backgrounds. To give you a taste I have guests from high performance sports, environmentally-focussed food producing communities, people who have over-dosed on drugs, those who have sought healing from spiritual and ritual ancient practices – even shamanism! We’ve got feminists, lingerie models, National Trust forest rangers, people of various religions and faith, travellers, scientists, doctors, professors, those who are overweight, those who are underweight… the list goes on.
What do you talk about?
There are no taboo topics just experienced, loveable humans. The one thing that all my guests have in common is that I have reached out to them and they are willing to talk openly with me about their personal battles and their amazing and interesting lives. I hope to produce stimulating, yet tough, conversations that collectively help people from paying the ultimate price if they ever reach the Mount Everest of a mental health crisis. Some of the stories are about bereavement, suicide, self harm, depression and so many more tough subjects. But all of the conversations are about hope and positivity, with many great pieces of advice. We help to direct people to the resources that can help and give positive affirmations to inspire the listeners. And did I mention HOPE? Plus we have an absolute blast and learn loads of amazingly interesting facts whilst going through the rainbow of emotions. There will be tears, there will be laughter and there is a real sense of positive energy that will seep through the microphone.
Have you been inspired by other podcasts?
I’m inspired by genuine people and I find compelling story tellers and all art forms including podcasts, especially long wave conversation, really therapeutic. My personal favourite podcasts are Rich Roll and Joe Rogan.
How will your podcast stand out from all the other podcasts out there?
The PodBarber is genuine and intimate. For example I write a noodle (poem) that’s personalised to each guest. Also, I’m not selling anything I’m just pushing positivity! I think that my content and professionalism, and my audio bro and show partners’ 30 year audio background, makes it sound amazing and succinct. In addition, both of us have extensive training and experience in mental health. I’m a MHFA (Mental Health First Aider) and my show partner Howie is a Samaritan. We are putting so much into this project in a time when people need to feel connected and we honestly hope we can be the conduit to a better day.
Tell us more about you? What skills as a barber have made you a good podcast host?
I’m a stoic and I live by the pillars of my values. I’m a father to three beautiful daughters, I’m well travelled and I have so many lived experiences. I’m basically a super curious sponge of a man and I just want to know more. Plus, I’m open minded non-judgemental and I have proven that I can get men and women to comfortably open up and explore conversation as a cure. I’m sorry if I waffle but I feel so positive about this project it’s been in the making for a year or so!
You’ve mentioned that you’ve undertaken mental health first aid training – what did that entail and how did you find out about the course? I did my training with 12th Man who offer internationally recognised Mental Health First Aid training. The campaign was actually mentioned to me by MR Barbers HQ [Mick works in the Saffron Walden shop] as they felt it an important tool to help their barbers effectively and confidently deal with mental health conversations. And not just conversations with clients, I think barbers will benefit from their training in their own lives too.
The training was delivered via Zoom. It was really helpful and respectful and it was focused on group activities that help you understand how to deal with varied types of crises. It was so useful and rewarding to hear other people’s thoughts and interpretations. It helped build confidence in all of us who took part and created more awareness about our own mental health. All this meant that we can positively and effectively offer support and help to those in need. It also covered how to listen properly which is in itself a very hard thing to do well – but with intent and practice we can make progress.
Two years ago I carried my friend’s coffin through the church at his funeral. He was a Royal Marine and was so badly injured, not in his body but in his mind, that he took his own life. I can’t help him anymore, but with this training and podcast I know I can help others.
Has the training helped you in any real life situations? I have used the training passionately within my own home (it compliments my amazing wife’s efforts) and I use the techniques at work. But one stand out occasion when I used it was with an elderly bachelor neighbour, who I have been feeding and caring for through lockdown. The training helped me in a crisis and it allowed me to compassionately and safely see him into the hospital where he is still recovering. I was able to deal with the situation clearly and work along with the health professionals to make a very scared, disoriented man feel safe and protected. I also helped organise his brother’s return from abroad and responded to the health organisations to make sure that he was cared for properly. Since then the medical reports and paramedic reports expressed how useful my attitude and help was, so I suppose that coupled with the fact that I feel better for helping someone to genuinely make a difference, proves that the training was brilliant and has equipped me much better. My immediate neighbours were also very impressed and I received personal letters all of which are very lovely. Really I’m just a kind man who without the tools delivered by MHFA course this elderly isolated man perhaps would have had a different story. I genuinely can’t thank the training enough. Any organisation who compiles knowledge and strategies to widen and strengthen individuals and communities to reach out is inspiring and will have a great long term effect. It’s motivated me to spread the message further and coupled with my new podcast I know that I can have a positive impact on mental health.