The latest Salon Secrets podcast features barber Tom Chapman, founder of the Lions Barber Collective and it’s definitely worth a listen!
Packed full of tips and insight into the role of barbers as mental health advocates, the Salon Services-produced podcast with Tom can be listened to here or on your usual podcast platform.
The aim of the Lions Barber Collective is to provide mental health training for everyone in the hair and beauty industry about the signs to look out for in your clients… and where to signpost them to get help.
A sneak peek from the episode
Tom says: “The hair and beauty industry is so important to our nation. It makes us feel good physically but also mentally. There’s no stigma or taboo about getting your lashes done or going to get a wet shave. But if you were going to see a psychiatrist there would be a lot of anxiety around that. ‘Are they going to diagnose me?’, ‘Will I be able to go to work?’, ‘Are they going to section me?’
” We don’t have that with hairdressers and barbers. We can train barbers and hairdressers to recognise the signs, ask the right questions and listen and give them the knowledge to signpost. Rather than trying to make them into psychiatrists or counsellors it’s about bridging that gap.”
Speaking about society’s stereotype of barbers and hairdressers being ‘low skilled’ Tom says: “We’re actually doing a very high skilled job with techniques that a lot of people have found out over lockdown are not as easy as they look. But we also have tact, we can listen, we have human contact – the license to touch – we have the art of conversation that is being lost. I think people undervalue those skills in themselves.
The things we are training through Barber Talk are things the hair industry does already. It’s helping them realise and gain the confidence to do them… and realising the power that they have.”
The four pillars of recognising mental health issues are…
The unique relationship you have with your clients means, as a hair and beauty professional, you are ideally placed to spot any changes to their behaviour and if they seem to be struggling.
Tom says: “What are the signs that may suggest clients are struggling with something? Everything from having a bad day to a moment of crisis. It boils down to any real change in normal behaviour. We know our clients well. We have enough time in between visits to recognise if anything is different. That could be body language – they may be slumped normally and come in being quite erratic or vice versa.”
Even though you talk to your clients every day, you may feel uncomfortable asking too personal a question. The talk training helps you ask those direct questions. “The questions we’re scared of asking because we’re scared of the answers”, says Tom. “Questions like, ‘How are you feeling today?’ rather than, ‘You alright mate?’ Those questions are more of a greeting and they are not giving people permission to say anything. Even asking, ‘Are you suicidal and do you have a plan?’ Those questions are life-saving.”
“The hair industry has long been joked about as being psychiatrists and therapists”, says Tom. “My manager at Toni and Guy said that to me when I was 18 on my first day on the job. He was so right – we are doing these things anyway.”
Listening with empathy and without judgement is key, adds Tom. “We all believe we’re good listeners but we could all do better.”
The final step to the training is knowing where to signpost your clients if they are struggling. The Barber Talk training has a list of resources you can go through and share with your clients. Tom says, “We are building up a directory with our learners so they have a safety net in their salon. This means you feel comfortable asking the questions and listening to them because you have places you can send people. We’re bridging that gap between the communities we serve and the resources that are available already.”
If you are concerned about someone, or need help, you can search for resources in your area on Hub of Hope, a mental health database. They also have a ‘talk now’ button which means you can speak directly to someone at the Samaritans.
You can listen to the Salon Secrets podcast with Tom here or on your usual podcast platform.