Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Across the world, more than 800,000 people take their lives each year and in the UK and ROI, that figure stands at 6,000. That’s an average of 18 people a day.
Suicide has actually reached crisis point in men and according to recent statistics by the Samaritans, men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide. The global scale of this means that one man will lose his life to suicide every minute.
There are lots of incredible mental health initiatives out there getting the message across, tackling the taboo and saving lives – but there’s something you and I can do, something really simple, loving and human. Something that could see you saving someone’s life.
Communicate! Somewhere along the way we’ve all almost forgotten how to interact with one another on a human level, we’ve stopped taking the time out to be present with the people we love the most. These acts cost us nothing. I urge you to stay connected. Write a letter, send a text, make a call, turn up and cook some food. It takes less than 30 seconds to send a text, quick Facebook message or even an email to see how someone is doing. Suicidal feelings leave a person feeling worthless, so checking up on them, taking the time out to chill, chat and relax with them can open up those invaluable, lifesaving conversations; because actually, talking – is everything!
Resident #MentalMovement writer Matt Peet spoke with founder of new men’s mental health initiative, The Lions Barber Collective to find out more about the scheme that see’s barbers across the country taking time out to talk ‘man to man’ with their clients.
Matt: Great to speak with you Tom, I think the Lion Barber Collective is what’s needed to help men open up and get stuff off their chest – for people who don’t know what the Lions Barber Collective is all about could you give us a brief outlay?
The Lions started from a comment on the New World Barbers Facebook group. I had the idea of getting all the barbers in the UK and Ireland to put a Look Book together. Each barber would donate an image and they would be put together and printed then sold with funds being raised donated to Charity. We then had to pick a charity….one of the Lions suggested Suicide prevention and that was it!! It clicked, I had lost a friend to suicide only a year previous and I was totally unaware of any organizations that existed. I also had no idea that he was feeling that way and id only seen him days before. This spurred me on and spawned a lot more ideas!
The idea and aim of the Lions is to raise awareness surrounding mental health, well-being and suicide prevention. I strongly believe that by talking about these subjects more openly we will work towards destroying the stigma around suicide and mental health. It is all about awareness. The barbershop is a great place for this because we often have a great relationship with our clientele and we are in a position of trust and intimacy, which most men do not earn.
Matt: So, if one of your clients comes in to the shop and shows signs that he may be needing a bit of help what is the next step for the Lions Barber team – what process do you go through to try and get this person what they need?
If someone comes into my shop and I feel they need more help after our appointment I would first try and signpost them to one of the national or local organizations or charities that many do not know about, such as Papyrus.
I have been working closely with a couple of local mental health and social workers and we are planning to set up a drop in like session every couple of weeks for anyone who may need help, or a bit of direction.
Also as I type this I am waiting at my shop to meet with a young lad who attempted suicide only recently and through friends he has contacted me just to come and meet me for an informal chat! Sometimes it’s just about having someone outside of your circle to listen, non judgmentally.
Matt: How can you find out if you have a Lions Barber near you?
At the moment we have barbers that support the Lions in the UK and Ireland that were part of The Look Book project. They are all listed on the website and have their personal Facebook accounts that tell you where they work. These guys are all sympathetic and empathetic to the cause. I have worked with Mental Health First Aid to help gain funded training for The Lions and any other hair professionals that wanted to attend.
We will also launch a Lions supporters pack very soon, where anyone can be a Lion and help by raising awareness and just letting people know its OK to talk to one another. It will also include a little bit of info about where to signpost people to.
With the BarberTalk training we hope to train as many barbers as possible and get it included in the NVQ qualification so in 10 years time most of the industry will be trained therefore hopefully destroying the stigma around mental health and suicide with education. Also if you think each barber has a few hundred clients we are reaching out into society too.
Matt: Why did you choose the Lion logo for your collective?
The Lion originally suggested by Paul Mac as we were made up of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh, like the rugby team.
Then I realized what a great logo it would be because of all the meanings around Lions, what they symbolize in strength yet being the only big cat that lives in a group, a Pride. Amongst many many things it is nice to think even the “King of the Jungle” needs support.
Matt: Do you have any info on upcoming events that people can get involved in?
We have a lot going on, at the moment I have a lot more offers than i can cover as I cannot give my full time to The Lions Barber Collective due to owning a salon and working their 6 days a week and doing the Lion work in-between whenever I get time.
We will be travelling to Sweden at the beginning of September for World Beard Day and there will be some exciting things happening there.
There are a lot of events that we get asked to be part of but unfortunately I can only be in one place at a time.
Matt: I myself have spotted you more and more on social media could you give any advice on how people can bring awareness to their own projects through social media?
That’s great that you have spotted us through social media, personally I think we have a long way to go with that ourselves. However I think that you need to be consistent with your posts on all your accounts. Try to be relevant with what you are posting and tag relative accounts that may re-post you to their larger audience. Things like online magazines can create great coverage if they post an interesting article on your project or organization as people then perceive you as credible and want to learn more compared to a re-tweet or re-post.
Matt: Let’s talk about Barber life. How did you start out as a Barber and can you offer any advice to people wanting to pick up the scissors and join the Collective?
I started in the hair industry 15 years ago with Toni&Guy. I found a love for mens hair and although clippers were not allowed in the salon at the time (we had to do all cuts with scissors) I bought a pair of super tapers and started working on friends at home. I was into punk and alternative styles so I started off with mohawks and went from there.
If you want to get into the industry the best bit of advice I could give you to get your foot in the door is to volunteer at a local shop help out and then just watch and ask questions. Learn how a shop works and be committed and dedicated and the shop owners will value you and want to teach you. Also just remember that what you do off the job determines how far you go on the job!
We are also developing our own bespoke mental health awareness and suicide intervention one day training program called BarberTalk.
The course will arm barbers with the tools to be able to recognize the signs of different mental health issues or potential suicide. What sort of questions to ask the person sat in their chair and the art of non judgemental, active listening. Those attending the course would then leave with the knowledge of local and national charities and organizations that they could then signpost people to.
Matt: I see you are sporting a pretty awesome beard! How long have you been growing that bad boy and do you have any tips on its up keep?
I have had a beard for years now, it was probably at its longest this time last year. Then my son was born late October and whenever I held him he was always in my beard so I took it back an awful lot, but kept it very full and well styled.
I owe my health, style and shine to Fit For Vikings beard care! It is truly phenomenal stuff, all natural highest quality ingredients and it truly shows! They have actually collaborated with the Lions Barber Collective to create our own scent! its available at www.fitforvikings.com and it smells amazing!
Matt: How do you feel about Man buns?
Its a fashion thing that was pretty popular during the 90’s, especially with the undercut. These fashions all come and go, however I think this one has had it’s time again and there aren’t many around that I know of.
Matt: Do you have a celeb hair crush – someone who you think that cut is banging?
I dunno if I’m the wrong person to ask this as I am not up to scratch on celeb culture. When looking at haircuts I probably look at work from other barbers or maybe back in time or relating to music. I love the silver screen, there was some phenomenal style back then with the likes of Clark Gabriel, James Stuart, James Dean etc. A resurgence in classic styles has come about due to popular TV and film like Boardwalk Empire, Peaky Blinders and Lawless, romanticizing an era with an excellent look.
Matt: If you are looking for a good Barber shop to cut your own hair what do you look for and what kind of questions should you be asking to make sure you get a class cut?
To be honest I would maybe check the shop out online before you go to them. Check their work on the likes of Instagram or Facebook as most shops upload their work online daily. Also if a shop is busy it is normally a good sign of being able to please their customer.
When you are in the chair take pictures of what you want, short to you may be different to the barber’s short and using hair terminology can go very wrong if you ask for a high skin fade but in reality you don’t want your hair any shorter than a grade 1.
Matt: If you designed your own hair product what would it be and why?
I have been very lucky to help with development of a few individual products recently and currently so I have seen some things come to life that we have discussed which is very exciting. However if I could come up with a brand new product it would be a kind of aerosol spray matte wax that was pliable for a minute before setting as if finished wit a firm hold hairspray. Therefore combining two products into an ultimate finishing tool!
Matt: Finally as a Barber you must have some great stories to tell care to share one with us?
Stories…..I have been told many by my clients and experienced a lot at events and on travels, many funny, some sad, a few awkward and a couple of naughty ones. However all I’ll say is that the Hair industry is the best in the world and has given me many many opportunities in so many different ways. Also once I had a call from a friend asking if toilet bleach was the right thing to put on her hair to get it blonde….luckily it was before she had applied it.